Pirates free Dutch ship

June 23, 2009 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, Jun 23 – Somali pirates shot dead a Ukrainian sailor during the hijack of a Dutch ship, the Dutch defence ministry said, adding that rescuers discovered the body when the ship was released Tuesday.

The pirates released the MV Marathon, which had been held since May 7 when the crewman was killed. The Dutch navy found the body when a warship met the vessel after it cleared the Somali coast.

Another of the eight crew members was wounded, ministry spokesman Marcel Pullen told AFP.

Pullen said the man was killed when the pirates took the vessel on May 7 in the Gulf of Aden. "The crew are all Ukrainian. They are all exhausted," he said.

The MV Marathon was being escorted to a "safe port" by the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provincien, the spokesman said, refusing to reveal the location.

The Dutch news agency, ANP, said a ransom was dropped to the pirates by helicopter. The ship’s owners, Amons and Company, declined to comment. The Dutch foreign ministry said that its principle was never to negotiate with pirates or pay ransoms.

A Dutch medical team was with the crew of the MV Marathon which was carrying coke. Defence Ministry investigators were also on the ship, the foreign ministry said.

"I am shocked by the cowardly murder of a member of the crew," Dutch Foreign Minister Mamime Verhagen said in a statement.

"The Netherlands will do everything to end these practices, by putting Dutch navy ships into operations against piracy and supporting the creation of a regional tribunal so that the criminals do not escape punishment," the minister added.

Five pirates detained by the Dutch navy in January are being held in the Netherlands awaiting trial.

Somali pirates still hold 14 ships carrying more than 200 sailors, nearly a quarter of them Filipinos, according to the latest figures from the International Maritime Bureau.

Western powers, Russia, China and other nations have deployed dozens of warships in an anti-piracy task force off the Somalia coast. Despite the involvement of more than 20 countries attacks are still regularly reported.

A Portuguese frigate foiled a pirate attack on a container vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Monday and captured eight pirates after firing shots at their boat, the Portuguese military said.

Somali pirates released seven Seychelles nationals held hostage since late March on Monday, Seychelles President James Michel said.

Japan’s parliament on Friday voted to increase the country’s involvement in the force because of the importance of the shipping lanes around Somalia.

Japan’s two destroyers there so far have no mandate to use force except to protect Japanese interests or when acting in self-defence.

The new law allows the warships to protect any commercial ships threatened by pirates, not just those sailing under the Japanese flag or carrying Japanese nationals or cargo.


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