July 20, 2010 / 9:48 AM / 8 years ago

Somali pirates release two ships-official

Pirates are seen on a speed boat near the enclave of Eyl, Somalia in this framegrab made from a November 24, 2008 TV footage. REUTERS/Reuters TV

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released a fishing vessel and fuel oil tanker seized in March, a maritime official said on Tuesday.

“UBT Ocean and Sakoba are both free,” Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme told Reuters.

The UBT Ocean is a Marshall Islands-registered tanker hijacked off Madagascar while carrying fuel oil from the United Arab Emirates to Tanzania. The FV Sakoba is a fishing vessel that has been operating in Kenyan and Tanzanian waters.

A Somali pirate called Hassan confirmed the releases.

“We released the fishing ship yesterday after a $3 million ransom was paid. We also released another ship carrying fuel today and took $4 million in ransom,” he told Reuters.

The ransom claims could not be independently verified.

Mwangura said family members of the 10 Kenyans aboard Sakoba had gathered at the port city of Mombasa to await their relatives. The crew also includes a Spaniard, a Polish national, a Namibian, a Cape Verde national and two Senegalese.

“It (FV Sakoba) is still in Somali waters. It is steaming out to safe waters,” Mwangura said by telephone, adding that the tanker UBT Ocean has a crew of 21.

Pirate attacks globally declined by nearly a fifth in the first half of 2010 from the same period last year due to a strong naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.

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