A tanker that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia was released without the hijackers claiming the ransom they demanded, officials said.
Security official Ahmed Mohamed told The Associated Press the pirates disembarked the ship, which was heading to Bossaso port, the region's commercial hub, with its eight Sri Lankan crew members aboard.
The release followed a gunfight earlier in the day between the pirates and the marine force, and then intensive negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and the pirates.
The hijacking was the first time Somali pirates have taken over a commercial ship in 2012. "We fear for the lives of our loved ones", a tearful Makalandawa said after meeting with Sri Lankan foreign ministry officials. The ship was carrying fuel to Mogadishu when it was approached by two small boats off the coast of Somalia.
Its entry also led to the Puntland military stopping its offensive action which might have set the laden oil tanker on fire and the Sri Lankans on board might have died in the inferno.
Oil tanker pirated of the Somali coast. The ship was anchored off the town of Alula, said Salad Nur, a local elder.
Steed says there is nothing unusual about the move.
Piracy off Somalia's coast used to cost the world's shipping industry billions of dollars and was seen as a major threat. The hijackers told authorities that they acted out of protest and only seized the ship to rebel against illegal fishing in the area.
The European Union anti-piracy operation in the region announced late Tuesday the armed men were holding the crew captive and demanding a ransom for the ship's release.
"They are human. Even the pirates are human". There were reports of a few incidents after 2012 but illegal fishing is said to be the main reason as to why piracy has returned. At the peak of the piracy epidemic in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 boats were held.
They have blamed Yemeni, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Djibouti-flagged fishing boats and trawlers, and some have threatened to return to a life of piracy to make money.
African migrants continue to head to Yemen , a transit point to Saudi Arabia where they seek jobs and a better life. Yemen's Houthi rebels reported shooting down a Saudi Apache helicopter in Hodeideh province on Thursday.
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