, NAIROBI, Sep 15 – Somali pirates have freed a Greek-owned merchant vessel and its 21 Filipino crew, five months after hijacking it in the Gulf of Aden, a maritime watchdog and its owner said Monday.
"The MV Irene is free. All 21 crew are safe and sound," said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.
The Saint Vincent-flagged ship was seized on April 14.
It was not immediately clear whether a ransom was paid but Filipino sources had said in August that the pirates were demanding 2.8 million dollars to free the ship and its crew.
The ship’s owner, Chian Spirit Maritime Enterprises Inc., confirmed the release of the boat and crew in a statement from Athens. It did not provide further details, including whether a ransom was paid.
The latest release brings to at least four the number of ships still held by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, the lowest figures in more than a year.
The number of seamen held hostage is now less than 100.
According to Ecoterra International, an NGO monitoring illegal maritime activities in the region, at least 163 attacks have been carried out by Somali pirates since the start of 2009 alone, 47 of them successful hijackings.