August 14, 2009 / 10:19 AM / in 8 years

Egyptian fishermen escape from Somali pirates

BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - The crews of two Egyptian fishing vessels have escaped from Somali pirates after overpowering their captors and killing two of them, an associate of the pirates said on Friday.

The kidnappers had held the 34 fishermen hostage since hijacking the Momtaz 1 and Samara Ahmed in April. Gunmen from the failed Horn of Africa state have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from attacks in the strategic Gulf of Aden.

An associate of the pirates told Reuters the Egyptians escaped on Thursday after seizing his colleagues’ weapons. Two pirates were killed in a shoot-out, several were captured and one was rescued after being stabbed and thrown into the sea.

“The two Egyptian ships sailed away after a fight with my friends,” said the associate, who gave his name as Farah, by phone from the pirate stronghold of Las Qoray. “We took a boat and rescued one who was injured and pushed overboard.”

Farah said the gunmen were a new team who had replaced the pirates who had hijacked them.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of an east African maritime group, said the fishermen and their ships were now en route to Egypt with their pirate captives.

Hassan, a Somali businessman who negotiates for the release of captured vessels, told Reuters the pirates holding the Egyptians had rejected a $200,000 ransom for them on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu and Alison Bevege in Mombasa; Writing by Jeremy Clarke; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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