, NAIROBI, Feb 11 – Somali pirates on Thursday freed a Taiwanese trawler they had used as a "mother ship" to attack other vessels during a 10-month ordeal that three crew did not survive, a maritime watchdog said.
The Win Far 161, hijacked on April 6 last year near the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, was freed for a "relatively small ransom", said a statement by Ecoterra International, an environmental NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region.
The Win Far was the longest-running case of Somali piracy.
The tuna long-liner was used as a "mother ship" from which to attack other vessels and two Indonesians and one Chinese among the original crew of 30 died during their last month of captivity, Ecoterra said.
"The three died of malnutrition, disease and neglect over the course of the last month," Ecoterra said, adding that the hostages\’ respective authorities did not provide any assistance in attempts to facilitate humanitarian relief.
The Win Far 161 was hijacked by pirates who used another hijacked boat — the Seychellois catamaran Serenity — and was in turn used to attack more ships, including the US-flagged Danish-owned Maersk Alabama.
Ecoterra said that the Taiwanese ship had been fishing illegally.
"The tuna long-liner had been observed earlier to fish illegally in Somali waters," the statement said, explaining that the ship belonged to a fleet known to be involved in poaching tuna for the Japanese market.
The Taiwanese vessel had most recently been held off the village of Garaad, one of the main pirate lairs in Somalia\’s northern semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
"Villagers in Garaad reported that all the money received was immediately snatched by the shop-keepers and others to whom the pirate group was indebted," the statement said.
The fishing vessel\’s release reduced to 10 the number of foreign vessels still held by pirates, together with close to 200 seamen.
Pirates on Tuesday freed an Indian-operated ship and its a crew of 26 after receiving a ransom of 3.1 million dollars.
Somalia\’s marauding sea bandits hijacked 68 ships in 2009 and raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in ransom money.