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Oil tanker hijacking: Somali pirates release ship and crew

Oil tanker hijacking: Somali pirates release ship and crew”

Pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged Aris 13 oil tanker have released the ship without conditions in the first seizure of such a vessel since 2012.

John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, told VOA, "They [the pirates] were given an offer they could not refuse - live or die".

A pirate who had spoken to Reuters news agency had threatened to kill the hostages if the Puntland forces continued to fire at them.

The incident was the first in some time in a part of the world where pirate hijackings had been common as recently as 2011, the height of the Somali pirate activities.

Maritime police in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland said on Thursday they would attack hijackers holding an oil tanker to free the vessel if efforts by local elders to get them to surrender did not work.

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Sri Lanka's Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday said his officials were in conversation with Puntland authorities to ensure the crew's safety.

An official from the Somali maritime forces said: "We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped".

"After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom", pirate Abdullahi told Reuters.

The tanker, which was en route from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was seized on Monday with eight Sri Lankan crew members on board.

On Wednesday, the European Union anti-piracy naval force, which is helping to tackle piracy in the region, said the hijackers had been demanding a ransom.

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"The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon".

Australian government records from 2014 show the ship in Monday's incident was owned by Flair Shipping Trading FZE in the United Arab Emirates and linked to UAE-based ship management firm Aurora Ship Management FZE.

Somali pirates began staging waves of attacks in 2005, seriously disrupting a major worldwide shipping route and costing the global economy billions of dollars.

Many Somalis, including former pirates, depend on fishing to make a living.

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