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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Somalia Pirates Release Crew of LPG Tanker

Arab Times reports that the 17 crew members of a Panamanian flagged LPG tanker taken hostage about two weeks ago have been released here.
The crew of an LPG carrier taken hostage by armed pirates off Somalia were freed unharmed on Wednesday after a nail-biting two-week ordeal, an ocean crime watchdog said.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said 17 crew of an unnamed Panamanian-flagged Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) carrier were freed early on Wednesday together with the vessel after a deal was struck during sensitive negotiations.

"We believe there was a ransom demand, but we don't know if it was paid," said Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the IMB told Reuters.

Somalian waters have a fearsome reputation, and have been classed as some of the world's most dangerous by the IMB in the past.

"The whole Somalian situation has been quiet for about 18 months and it has now suddenly flared up again. In the last three months there have been three serious attacks, with more reported in the last few days," he said.

The IMB says that since late March pirates have menaced and attacked ships with guns and grenades.

The LPG carrier was hijacked on April 10, some 135 miles off the east coast of Somalia by a gang in speedboats.

It was later taken into Somalian territorial waters where it remained anchored off the coast.

The IMB said the attack was particularly worrying because the vessel was lured into a trap by using a distress flare way off the Somalian coast...

Abhyankar said he did not know whether militia known to be active along the coast were responsible, though he ruled out any links to terrorism.

The IMB said a U.S. Navy warship was anchored close to the vessel throughout the ordeal and escorted the carrier into Gulf waters on Wednesday.
Earlier reports on the seizure of the ship and crew here, here, and here.

Update: Seems this is not new news (better check my news filters) Rantburg had it earlier. Much earlier.

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