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Somali pirates free Malaysian tug after ransom

SOMALI pirates today released a Malaysian-owned tugboat that had been held for more than seven months and its 11 Indonesian crew after a ransom was paid, a maritime official said.

The tugboat was towing a barge back to Malaysia from Mukallah in Yemen when it was seized off the Yemeni coast on December 16 last year.

"MT Masindra 7 and her 11 Indonesian crew were released last night after a ransom was paid," Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarer's Association told Reuters. The amount paid could not be immediately established.

"The crew is said to be safe and sound. She is now steaming out to safe waters," said Mwangura.

Gangs of Somali pirates in the shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe have made millions of dollars in ransom payments from ships hijacked in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

Foreign navies patrolling the waters off Somalia have been unable to stem attacks on merchant ships and find themselves overstretched given the vast expanses of seas they have to cover.

Poor weather has hampered pirate attacks of late giving the nearly 20,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden each year a temporary reprieve. But the monsoon season lull broke last week with a flurry of attacks.


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