Published: Sun, March 19, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Hijacked Bunker Tanker Released by Pirates off Somalia

Hijacked Bunker Tanker Released by Pirates off Somalia

Security official Ahmed Mohamed told Associated Press the pirates had disembarked the ship, which is now heading to the port of Bossaso, the region's commercial hub.

He said Sri Lankan authorities were in touch with USA naval forces and the shipping company for negotiations with the pirates.

The first successful hijacking since May 2012 by Somali pirates has raised fears about a new surge in piracy in the region.

Eight crew members of a fuel tanker hijacked off the coast of Somalia earlier this week have been released unharmed without a ransom payment, according to the Sri Lankan government.

"The release was made hours after the pirates and the European Union Naval Force exchanged gunfire, which was followed by extensive negotiations".

Sri Lanka's Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva said the European Union, the USA had helped co-ordinate the release.

An official in the semiautonomous state of Puntland said over two dozen men boarded the ship off Somalia's northern coast.

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At the time the tanker was taken it was forced to change course and head toward Puntland.

FILE - A photo of the 26 sailors who were released Saturday by Somali pirates. Hijacking attacks resulted in hundreds of hostages being held for ransom.

Maritime and Somali regional officials say the hijackers moved the ship to Haabo from its original location off the coast of Alula to the west. The ship was anchored off the town of Alula, said Salad Nur, a local elder.

It is the first hijack off Somalia's coast since 2012.

"They are human. Even the pirates are human".

Global media reports had said that the pirates had demanded an undisclosed ransom for the vessel's return.

The tanker was carrying oil and was flying under the United Arab Emirates flag, though reports about where the vessel originated had varied during the standoff.

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