Somali pirates release Omani ship after eight months

August 29th, 2008 - 1:18 am ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Aug 28 (Xinhua) Somali pirates freed an Omani ship almost eight months after hijacking the vessel. The crew were unharmed, a regional maritime official said Thursday.The pirates Thursday released the ASMAK fishing vessel, which was hijacked Jan 14, without causing harm to any of the 22 crew members of the ship, said Andrew Mwangura, the East African coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP).

“The 22 crew men of Oman fishing vessel ASMAK have been released unharmed and are preparing to sail back to Oman,” Mwangura told Xinhua over telephone.

The fishing vessel was hijacked near Garaad in Mudug region and taken to Eyl in Nugul region some 500 km north of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

At least 30 ships have been hijacked off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation so far this year.

A record four ships were seized in 48 hours last week and the frequency of piracy attacks has increased in the past month.

Last week, pirates attacked an Iranian vessel carrying some 40,000 tonnes of iron ore en route from China to the Netherlands, Mwangura said.

“All the 29 crewmembers of the vessel, including 14 Iranians, three Indians and others from five different nationalities, are unhurt,” Mwangura said.

“Reports reaching Mombasa last evening indicates that there is a shortage of ship stores, fresh water and supply aboard the vessels in captivity,” he said.

Piracy has long been a problem in the Gulf of Aden, where one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, connecting the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, passes by lawless Somalia, which has been without an effective central government since 1991.

The attackers are usually armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and travel in small, fast speed boats that can be towed more than 100 miles offshore.

Somalia’s coastline is considered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy.

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