Saturday, 01 December 2012 17:24
SEOUL: Four South Korean sailors held hostage by Somali pirates for nearly 19 months were freed Saturday, Seoul's foreign ministry said after a ransom was reportedly paid for their release.
"The four Korean crew members of the MT Gemini have been released," the ministry said in a statement, adding the sailors were being taken to safety aboard a South Korean navy ship.
The release followed an agreement between Singapore firm Glory Ship Management which owns the MT Gemini and the pirates, it said without elaboration.
But Yonhap quoted an unidentified foreign ministry official as saying that the ministry had assisted in ransom talks between the boat's owner and the pirates, but declined to say how much had been paid for their release.
The tanker was carrying 28,000 tonnes of crude palm oil from Indonesia to Kenya when it was hijacked on April 30 last year.
Seven months later, the pirates freed the vessel and released all 21 non-Korean crew members while keeping the four Koreans captive.
In return for their release, they had called for the release of five other Somali pirates who were captured in a South Korean naval operation earlier last year and sentenced to long prison terms.
The waters off Somalia are notorious for pirate attacks but the presence of several navy task forces has seen such incidents fall sharply this year.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012