Authorities paid pirates a ransom of $1.2 million to win the freedom of a Spanish fishing boat and its 26-member crew seized off the Horn of Africa a week ago, a Somali official said.If reports of the ransom are true, the waters off Somalia are a little bit more dangerous today.
Suspected pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades had seized control of the tuna-fishing boat from Spain's Basque region last Sunday about 200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, a region where piracy has escalated recently.
The pirates released the ship Saturday, authorities said. The crew was freed after Spanish authorities paid a $1.2 million ransom, Abdi Khalif Ahmed, chairman of the Haradhere local port authority in central Somalia, said late Saturday.
"The ship is free and the pirates disappeared into their villages," he said.
However, Spanish officials did not confirm payment of a ransom and said only that there had been negotiations for the crew's release.
In Madrid, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Saturday that the trawler, the 250-foot-long Playa de Bakio, was sailing home escorted by a Spanish frigate. She would not comment on any ransom.
Monday, April 28, 2008