Somali pirates release hijacked oil tanker, hostages
"After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom", said representative of the pirates, called Abdullahi.
He says the release occurred after negotiations by local elders and local officials with the pirates, who seized the tanker on Monday. "We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away", said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, director-general of the maritime police force for Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.
The Sri Lankan Minister said that for the first time, WhatsApp was used in communications and it was through WhatsApp that the Puntland President told him about the release early on Thursday.
Families of the crew members had tearfully pleaded for the men to be released unharmed.
The ship had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, he said.
The Puntland President was involved as the piracy took place off his country's shores. 'The ship changed course quite soon after that report and is now anchored'.
The area where the pirates operate is also home to one of the eight biggest maritime oil routs, the Bab el-Mandeb channel, through which 3.8 million barrels of crude pass daily.
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"They desperately need to show their grievances by seizing the boat", said Abdiwahab Ahmed, an elder in the coastal town of Alula.
"The question wasn't really if an attack was going to happen, the question was when", said Steed.
This is the first case of piracy off the Somalia coast since 2012.
According to John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, the pirates were given an offer they could not refuse - live or die.
Worldwide media reports had said that the pirates had demanded an undisclosed ransom for the vessel's return.
Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats continued to face assaults.
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