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    Pirates seize ship off Somalia, release another

    10.10.2008 - 15:28 | Son Güncelleme:

    Pirates in the commercially strategic waters between Somalia and Yemen hijacked one ship and released another on Friday, a government official and a shipping line said.

    The panama-flagged Wail, carrying cement, was the latest in a long list of ships that have been boarded by pirates in recent months. Several have been released on payment of a ransom and one luxury yacht was liberated by French commandos.

    "A Panama-flagged ship, Wail, was hijacked on Thursday night between Socotra Island and Bosasso," said Ali Abdi Aware, state minister for northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region.

    He told Reuters the crew of 11 consisted of nine Syrians and two Somalis.

    Also on Friday pirates freed an Iranian bulk carrier and its 29 crew after seven weeks of negotiations, Iran's official IRNA news agency said, quoting the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRSL).

    Piracy is rife off Somalia, which has been mired in anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

    The vital sealane in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia links the Middle East Gulf and Asia to Europe and beyond via the Suez Canal and is critical to Gulf oil shipments.

    On Thursday NATO military alliance decided to join anti-piracy operations along Somalia's 3,300 km (2,060 mile) coastline.

    Gunmen have boarded more than 30 vessels this year and received ransoms totalling between $18-30 million, according to British think-tank Chatham House.

    The Wail was attacked just hours after Somali pirates let go the Japanese chemical tanker Irene after payment of a $1.6 million ransom and a few hours before the release of the Iranian ship.

    IRNA quoted IRSL as saying their ship, the Dianat, was now moving towards international waters. The crew was all well.

    The Dianat was hijacked on Aug. 21 in the Gulf of Aden in international waters while carrying 42,500 tons of mineral and industrial products from China to Holland.

    One of the highest-profile pirate attacks off Somalia this year involves the MV Faina, which has been held since the end of September with 20 crew members on board. Its cargo includes 33 T-72 tanks which were en route to Kenya's Mombasa port.



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