Somali pirates release Togo-flagged ship, attack two

Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:19am EDT
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By Abdi Guled and Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released a Togo-flagged cargo ship seized last week, a U.N. aid agency said on Monday, and failed in attacks on two merchant vessels.

Pirates have made millions of dollars in ransoms hijacking commercial vessels in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, despite patrols by foreign navies off the Somali coast.

The violence has disrupted aid supplies, driven up insurance costs and forced some firms to route cargo round South Africa.

"We hear from the operator that it was released," said U.N. World Food Programme spokesman Peter Smerdon.

The nearly 5,000-tonne MV Sea Horse was on its way to pick up food for the aid group when it was hijacked.

A pirate source said a $100,000 ransom was paid.

"Somali traders were involved in the release of this ship. They mediated and paid some money. I think it was not more than $100,000," the source, Hassan, told Reuters by telephone.

The Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, which monitors piracy, said the ship was freed on Friday but had no details about the ransom.   Continued...

<p>A U.S navy marine stands on guard on the deck of the warship Bainbridge guard upon arrival at the port of Mombasa, 500km from the capital Nairobi, April 16, 2009. NATO forces foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian tanker then briefly detained seven gunmen after hunting them down under cover of darkness, NATO officials said on Sunday, April 19. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna</p>