Somali pirates have freed two merchant ships they had hijacked off the coast of the country, a maritime official said Saturday.
"All the crew are safe aboard both vessels,'' said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.
The ships, the MV Rozen _ a cargo ship that had been delivering U.N. food aid to northeastern Somalia _ and the MV Nimatullah, are now sailing out of Somali waters, he said. Both vessels were released late Friday. Mwangura said a ransom had been paid but he did not have details.
The MV Rozen and its 12 crew members _ six from Sri Lanka and six from Kenya _ were hijacked on Feb 25. The Indian-flagged MV Nimatullah, which was carrying more than 800 tons (725 metric tons) of cargo, including cooking oil, secondhand clothing and rice, and its 14 crew were seized last Monday.
The U.N. food agency, which chartered the MV Rozen, welcomed the release of the ship. "The threat of piracy is, however, very much alive and we urge the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Puntland authorities to curb this menace,'' said the WFP country director for Somalia, Peter Goossens.