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Hijacked ship released, Indian sailors safe

world Updated: Nov 16, 2008 11:39 IST

PTI
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MT Stolt Valor, a cargo ship with 18 Indian sailors on board and hijacked by Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden two months back, has been released, National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) said on Sunday.

The Indian sailors were on the way to Mumbai, it said.

NUSI Chairman Abdul Gani said, "There is no major medical problem (among the sailors)."

He refused to go into details about the release but said, "definitely ransom has been paid but we will not be able to go into details of the amount."

Gani also thanked the Indian Navy and said, "we appreciate the efforts of the Indian Navy. Definitely it (ship) would be escorted out safely from the danger zone."

Seema Goel, wife of Capt of the ship Prabhat Goel, told PTI, "I got an official information from DG shipping that the ship has been released by the hijackers on Sunday.

"They will be reaching India in another four-five days," she said.

Asked whether any ransom was paid for the release, Goel said she had no information how the release was secured.

The cargo ship, owned by a Japanese company and managed by Fleet Marine Ltd in Mumbai, was hijacked by the armed Somali pirates on September 15. The hijackers had demanded a ransom of USD six million for the release of the crew and later had brought the amount down to USD 2.5 million.

Gani said, "I will not go into the details of the amount but definitely the entire exercise has been big business for Somali pirates and definitely the ransom has been paid but we will not be able to go into details of the amount."

Reacting to the development, a relieved Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu said that he had requested Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to extend help in getting the sailors in the hijacked ship released.

He said the Indian Navy has sent a warship to the area in the Gulf of Aden where the ship had been hijacked.

Observing that efforts should be made to ensure that such incidents do not recur, Baalu said, "there was no government (in Somalia). Had there been one, we could have opened diplomatic channel to solve this issue. Everyone had come in handy to see that the vessel was freed from the pirates".