Tugboat released after ransom paid

Somali pirates released a Danish-owned tugboat that was held for more than a month after a ransom was paid, local officials said yesterday.

Somali pirates released a Danish-owned tugboat that was held for more than a month after a ransom was paid, local officials said yesterday.

The British captain, Irish engineer and four Russian crew aboard the Svitzer Korsakov are "safe and healthy", said Ahmed Said Aw-Nur, the fisheries and ports minister in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region north-east of Somalia.

Aw-Nur said the ship was freed after its Danish owner "negotiated with the criminals and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom".

A regional official who asked not to be named said about R5,7million was paid.

Aw-Nur condemned the payment of the ransom "because it might encourage more piracy".

Piracy is common along Somalia's 3000km coast, which is the longest in Africa and near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

Pat Adamson, a London-based spokesman for the Danish ship-owner, Svitzer, was unavailable for comment. Last month, he said the 115-foot tugboat was built in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was on its way to Sakhalin Island in the Far East. - Sapa-AP

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