Somali pirates free Panama ship after ransom


Somali pirates said they received a $3.1 million ransom yesterday and freed a Panama-flagged ship, the MV Al Khaliq, which they hijacked in October.

“Our friends have disembarked and the ship set off into the ocean,” one of the pirates, Hassan, told Reuters by telephone from the coastal pirate base of Haradheere.

The MV Al Khaliq was thought to be carrying 24 Indians and 2 Burmese crew members, and negotiations for its release had been going on for weeks. It was loaded with wheat grain when it was seized on Oct. 22 west of the Seychelles.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said it was now heading to Mombasa port.

The number of piracy attacks worldwide leapt almost 40% last year, with gunmen from the failed Horn of Africa state accounting for more than half the 406 reported incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Typically, the heavily armed Somali pirates hold captured ships and their crews hostage until ransoms are paid.