Somali pirates release longest-held hostages after 33 months

Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:51am EST
 

By Abdiqani Hassan

BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - A ship and its crew of 22 sailors held by Somali pirates for almost three years have been freed after a two-week-long siege by maritime police, the government of the breakaway region of Puntland said on Sunday.

The sailors aboard Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, from the Philippines, India, Yemen, Sudan, Ghana and Pakistan, were held for longer than any other hostages in the power of the pirates, who prey on shipping in the region, according to the president's office of the northern Somali enclave in a statement

Maritime police laid siege to the vessel on December 10 near the coastal village of Gara'ad in the region of Mudug.

"After 2 years and 9 months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care," said the statement.

The ship originally had a crew of 24, but two had died since the roll-on roll-off cargo vessel was seized on March 29, 2010, some 10 miles from Aden, pirates said.

One of the pirate leaders said they only released the ship after negotiation with Puntland officials and local elders.

"They kindly requested the release of the ship we held for three years. Puntland forces had attacked us and tried to release the ship by force but they failed. We fought back and defeated them," the pirate known as Farah told Reuters.

Farah did not disclose whether any ransom had been paid for the crew and the ship, owned by Azal Shipping in Dubai with a deadweight of 4,500 tonnes.   Continued...