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Somali Pirates Free Italian Tug

An Italian tugboat and its crew of 16, seized by pirates off the Gulf of Aden in April, have been released, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.  

Frattini told Sky Italia TV he had been given the news by the Somali prime minister.

The ship's release was the result of exceptional work on the part of Somali authorities and the Italian intelligence service, he said. 

The pirates hijacked the Italian-flagged Buccaneer on April 11 with a crew of 10 Italians, five Romanians and one Croatian and took it to a point close to Las Qoray, a fishing village in a disputed area of northern Somalia. 

The ship is now on its way to the port of Djibouti, escorted by naval vessels, said Silvio Bartolotti, general manager of the company that owns it, Ravenna-based Micoperi Marine Contractors. 

The ship was not freed as the result of military action and no ransom was paid, Bartolotti said. 

The foreign ministry issued a statement expressing great satisfaction with the positive solution of the... hijacking of the cargo ship Buccaneer and the freeing of the Italians on board. 

It is said the ship's release was the result of a long process of contacts with the Somali authorities, the collaboration of the Puntland authorities, and the work of the Italian intelligence service. 

Las Qoray lies between the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia and breakaway Somaliland.  

Puntland has been relatively peaceful compared with southern Somalia, which has been mired in conflict for 18 years, but has become infamous as a base for pirates who have hijacked scores of ships in the busy shipping lanes off the coast.

source: TVNZ

Pirates release stone dumping vessel Pompei

Somali pirates have released a Belgian dredging ship and its crew two months after they were captured, the Belgian prime minister has said.


"We were... informed that the entire crew is in good health," Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement.

Officials say a ransom was paid for the release of the ship, MV Pompei, and its 10 crew: a Dutch captain, two Belgians, three Filipinos, and four Croats.

It was hijacked on 18 April some 150km (93 miles) north of the Seychelles.

The Pompei was the first Belgian ship to be seized by Somali pirates.

At the time of its capture, it had been on its way to South Africa from Dubai, where it was helping to build artificial islands.

Defence Minister Pieter De Crem told reporters in Brussels that 10 pirates had abandoned the ship early on Sunday, a day after a plane dropped the ransom cash into the sea near the Pompei, reported AP news agency.

Belgian officials said the money had been paid by the insurance company of the ship, and that the goverment had provided assistance in the long drawn-out negotiations.

The director of the Belgian government's crisis centre, Jaak Rase told the BBC: "This was the only way to free and to put an end to this hijacking."

He added:"About 160 contacts we had by telephone, and all the time there were discussions about the ransom."

source: BBC News

Dutch navy escorting freed Nigerian tugboat

Yenegoa Ocean

(image via Tugster)

Somali pirates have released a Nigerian tugboat they hijacked 10 months ago and a Dutch navy ship is escorting it to a safe harbor, the Dutch Defense Ministry said Sunday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Robin Middel said Dutch ship The Seven Provinces is alongside the Yenegoa Ocean and medical staff are tending to its crew.

The tug was having engine trouble, so it was unclear when it would reach port, Middel said.

Middel said the tug's Nigerian crew members are exhausted after 10 months in captivity but have no major health problems.

"Everyone is all right," he said.

Dutch marines boarded the tug Saturday after getting news of its release. The Defense Ministry did not say if a ransom was paid.

It was captured Aug. 4, 2008, as it returned from repairs in Singapore.

The Dutch ship is part of a NATO flotilla guarding the pirate-infested waters in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast. The gulf is one of the world's most important shipping lanes, crossed by 20,000 ships a year, and a prime target for Somali pirates.
source: Reuters