Somali pirates free Seychelles fishermen after year's captivity

MOGADISHU/VICTORIA Sun Nov 4, 2012 11:44am EST

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MOGADISHU/VICTORIA (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released two Seychellois hostages they had in captivity for a year, officials from both countries said.

The two fishermen were hijacked last November in their boat, the Aride, some 65 miles west of Mahe in Seychelles and taken to the Somali port of Hobyo, a base for many pirates, before being moved inland to the central town of Adado, where they were held.

"The Office of the President has confirmed that - following extensive efforts by President James Michel - Rolly Tambara and Marc Songoire have been freed in Somalia, where they had been held hostage for the past year," the Seychelles president's office said in a statement.

"The two Seychellois fishermen are now in a safe area and arrangements are being made to convey them to Seychelles by the speediest means."

A pirate known as Mohamed from Adado said late on Saturday the captors had been given a $3 million ransom, but this could not be independently verified.

Somalia, which is only now getting a functioning government after two decades of chaos and civil war, is next to the Gulf of Aden's busy shipping lanes. Poverty and lawlessness have in recent years lured many young men into piracy, where ransom payments for crew and ships can yield millions of dollars.

An international naval flotilla in the region has stepped up pre-emptive action against the pirates, including strikes on bases on the Somali coast. Shipping firms are increasingly deploying armed guards and other measures such as heightened watches and razor wire to improve security on vessels.

"The two men ... have now been flown out after negotiation with the Somali and Seychelles government," Ahmed Salad, commissioner of Adado District in central Somalia, told Reuters on Sunday.

(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Peter Graff)

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