MV Abdullah released by Somali pirates, apparently after ransom paid

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The Bangladesh-flagged Merchant Vessel Abdullah, captured over a month ago by Somali pirates, has been released along with its 23 crew, apparently after a $5 million ransom was paid.

The European Union Naval Force (EU NavFor) in a statement on 15 April confirmed the release, adding its Operation Atalanta was the first actor to respond to the hijacking of the vessel on 12 March, when one Atalanta vessel started shadowing the vessel.

Reuters quoted two pirates as saying the MV Abdullah was released on Sunday 14 April after a $5 million ransom had been delivered to them, but the Somali government did not respond to its request for comment.

The MV Abdullah’s owner, the KSRM Group, said the vessel and its crew were freed following negotiations. “We struck a deal with the pirates,” Mizanul Islam of SR Shipping, the group’s maritime arm, told Agence France Presse. “We cannot say more about the money,” he added, but said all the crew are safe and secure.

The ship has since sailed to the United Arab Emirates – its original destination, which it was supposed to reach on 19 March – escorted by two warships.

Somali publication Garowe Online reported that at least eight pirates were apprehended on the East Coast of Puntland moments after the MV Abdullah was released.

“A high-ranking officer from Puntland Police Force informed Garowe Online that they have apprehended eight members of the pirate group holding the Bangladesh-flagged ship MV Abdullah. It has not been confirmed whether the ransom money paid to the pirates was recovered during the operation,” the publication reported.

The MV Abdullah was en route from Maputo to the United Arab Emirates with a cargo of coal when it was seized by at least a dozen pirates on 12 March and subsequently sailed towards Somalia.

Hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Houthi attacks in the Gulf of Aden continue at an almost daily basis, with one vessel (the MV Rubymar) sunk, and two seafarers killed in another attack. Multiple vessels have this year been hit by Houthi missiles.