Spain says Kenyan-flagged boat hijacked in February has been freed

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spain says Kenyan boat hijacked in February freed

MADRID — A Kenyan-flagged fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in February has been released, Spain’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

In a statement, the ministry said the Sakoba, carrying its crew and Spanish captain Manuel Ferreira, was sailing toward the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

The ministry said it did not know how many crew members were aboard.

In Kenya, the mother of one of the freed sailors expressed relief.

“It has been four long months of waiting, but God heard our prayers,” Ash Bakari said upon hearing of the release of her son, Leonard Danson, who lives in Mombasa.

“We had given up hope, especially when we heard that violence is escalating in Somalia and that the ship’s owner had failed to reach an agreement with the pirates,” she said.

The ministry said the vessel was hijacked Feb. 26 and the release followed intense negotiations on behalf of the ministry and Spain’s embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

The European Union Naval Force in March said the vessel was taken about 400 miles (640 kilometers) east of the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam but it had no details on the crew.

The force said pirates were extending their reach south into the Indian Ocean because of stepped-up naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

Also, Norwegian shipping company TH. Broevig Shipowners said its chemical tanker UBT Ocean had been released by Somali pirates after being held captive for four months.

The company’s fleet manager, Knut Myklebust, said the tanker was released Tuesday and the 21 crew members from Myanmar were believed to be safe.

UBT Ocean is owned by Broevig, but is registered in and managed from Singapore.

Myklebust said he did not know if a ransom had been paid because the situation had been handled from Singapore.

The chemical tanker was carrying petroleum from the United Arab Emirates to Tanzania when it was hijacked in March by Somali pirates near Madagascar.

Somalia has been without a functioning government for 19 years, and militants control much of the country’s regions. The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the east African country’s coastline.

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