Somali pirates have freed a Japanese-operated bulk carrier with 21 Filipino crewmen they seized in October, a Philippine official said on Tuesday, the third ship to be released in a week.
Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Bayani Mangibin confirmed that the African Sanderling and its all-Filipino crew were released on Sunday.
He gave no other details, and it was not clear if a ransom was paid, as is usually the case. The Panamanian-flagged and South Korean-owned ship was seized while en route to Asia from the Middle East.
The latest release brought to 33 the number of Filipino sailors still held by pirates, according to government data. The Philippines supplies about a third of the world's sailors.
Pirates last year attacked 111 ships and seized 42 off the Horn of Africa. An international flotilla including US warships has stopped many attacks, but the area is too vast to keep all ships safe.
Their biggest prize yet, a Saudi oil tanker, was released last week. Five of the dozens of pirates who had hijacked the tanker drowned Friday when their small boat capsized as they returned to shore in rough weather.
The US Navy released photos of a parachute dropping a package onto the deck of the Sirius Star, and said the package was likely to be the ransom delivery.
The tanker had a crew of 25, 19 of them Filipinos. Another ship, the Iranian-chartered MV Delight, also was released Friday with a crew of 25, including seven Filipinos, Iranian television reported last week.
The Sirius Star had been held near the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina, which was loaded with 33 Soviet-designed battle tanks and crates of small arms.