Somali pirates free Saudi oil tanker

January 10th, 2009 - 5:26 am ICT by IANS  

Mogadishu, Jan 10 (Xinhua) A Saudi oil tanker that was seized by Somali pirates in mid-November in the Indian Ocean has been released, officials and a member of the bandit group confirmed Friday.“We have released the ship along with the crewmembers. All our men are on land (now),” Mohamed Abdullah, a member of the group told Xinhua on phone from the Somali port of Harardhere Friday.

Sirius Star was loaded with two million barrels of crude oil when it was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, some 780 km off the coast of Somalia Nov 15.

The ship, with 25 people on board, was on its way to the US at the time of the incident.

In Harardhere, officials requesting anonymity said that a ransom of nearly $3 million has been paid to the pirates for the release of the tanker. The deal was clinched after weeks of negotiations between the ship owners and pirates, they added.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP) Friday said the tanker was moving away from its earlier position, indicating that the pirates might have freed the vessel.

The hijacking of Sirius Star had raised huge international concern of escalating piracy activities off the coast of Somalia.

The Gulf of Aden between Yemen and north Somalia is a major shipping route leading to the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia. Ships moving through the area have been the targets of the pirates.

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