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Somali pirates release hijacked vessel

They have killed one of the 10 Indian crew members aboard the commercial ship that was hijacked last month.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 15:44 IST

Somali pirates have released a commercial ship with 10 Indian crew, they hijacked last month off the coast of the Horn of Africa country, killing a crew member and wounding two others, Kenya's maritime official confirmed on Monday.

Andrew Mwangura, the coordinator of the Kenyan chapter of the seafarers assistance programme, said the pirates released the MV Al-Taj, its 10 Indian crew late on Saturday from where the ship had been held near the port of Haradhere, about 400 km north of Mogadishu.

"The Al-Taj was released on Saturday night. We have also information that a crewmember was killed while two others were wounded during the hijacking," he said.

Mwangura, who is tracking Somali maritime activities from the neighbouring Kenya, said the ship has returned to its home port in the United Arab Emirates after the businessman who contracted it paid $25,000 for the vessel's release.

Somalia waters have become the most dangerous in the world since warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, ushering in an era of anarchy in the Horn of Africa country.

Piracy has become an epidemic in the unpatrolled waters off the coast of Somalia where at least 40 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded since mid March last year.

The Horn of Africa nation has no coast guard to protect vessels.

But in the past two months, US Navy ships have confronted two groups of pirates, killing one person and injuring five others.

One group of pirates the US navy confronted is now facing trial in Kenya.

Last week, Kenya launched a maritime rescue centre to provide a rapid response to acts of piracy and accidents at sea, particularly in the pirates-infested waters of the Somali coast.

The regional maritime rescue coordination centre opened in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa last Friday would combat the increasing attacks on shipping in the Indian Ocean off the coast of neighbouring Somalia.