World News

Somali pirates free Danish ship

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Danish cargo ship and its crew that were hijacked by Somali pirates in June have been released after 83 days in captivity after a ransom was paid, the Danish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The MV Danica White was carrying building materials from Dubai to Kenya when it was seized off Somalia in the world’s most dangerous waterway.

“We have talked to the crew and they are feeling OK at this point,” the Foreign Ministry’s head of citizen services Lars Thuesen told a news conference.

“It’s been a terrible experience for the hostages, being held for more than 80 days not knowing what was going on.”

Danish TV2 News reported security firm Protocols said it had paid ransom of $1.5 million (753,000 pounds) for the release of the ship and crew.

The Foreign Ministry said the crew -- a captain, a navigator, a first mate and two less experienced sailors -- were in good health considering the circumstances but that they had been threatened by the armed pirates.

Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, also told Reuters by telephone local residents had told him all the crew members were fine.

There had been fears the captives were running out of food and fresh water after the vessel’s generator broke.

After being freed, the Danica White headed for Djibouti about three days away, escorted by the French corvette Blaison. The crew will fly from there to be reunited with their families.

Just days after the Danica was captured, a U.S. Navy warship destroyed three small pirate boats being towed behind it, but was forced to abandon the chase after it entered Somali waters.

Three other foreign ships are still being held by Somali pirates, Thuesen said.

Such attacks have increased since a Somali Islamist movement that brought a semblance of order to the country for six months was ousted in January. Piracy remains a significant threat to sea trade and cost billions of dollars annually.

Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis