Somali pirates released 22 sailors they kidnapped last month after the South Korean ship owner paid a ransom, an official said today. The eight South Koreans and 14 Myanmarese were freed yesterday. They had been held since their 15,000-tonne cargo ship was seized off the coast of the east African nation on September 10. Koo Ja-Woo, an executive director of J and J Trust, which owns the ship, said his company paid an unspecified sum to the pirates through a foreign middleman with experience in dealing with the seizure of ships.
"As a result, we could secure the early release of the sailors. But I cannot disclose the amount," he told the Yonhap news agency. J and J officials and South Korea's foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment. The ministry said earlier the South Koreans were expected to return home on October 26. Somali waters are the world's most dangerous for piracy. The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 24 attacks in the area between April and June alone.
Maritime experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia's 3,700km of largely unpatrolled coast. Pirates operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The ship and its crew were released after four months when a ransom was paid. Last year Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew including four South Koreans.
The crew were released in November after six months in captivity. Local media reports said the pirates had demanded a ransom of five million dollars before reducing the sum to an undisclosed figure. *AFP