, MOGADISHU, February 2 – A ransom was air-dropped Monday onto a Greek-owned cargo ship captured by Somali pirates in November but the vessel was not immediately freed, pirates told AFP.
The Marshall Islands-flagged MV Filitisa and its crew of three Greek officers and 19 Filipinos were seized in the Indian Ocean on November 10 and the vessel is currently anchored near the pirate lair of Hobyo.
Pirates in the region explained that the gang holding the ship received the money and went back to shore but left another crew of pirates onboard to foil any retaliatory military action against the original hijackers.
"The ransom money for the Greek ship was received this afternoon and the pirates who were holding the ship have left it," Abdi Yare, a pirate leader, told AFP from the nearby coastal town of Harardhere.
"But they have left some colleagues on board to give them time to vanish with the money," he explained.
Some witnesses in the area had reported the presence of helicopters, presumably from a nearby warship belonging to an international anti-piracy naval mission, circling above the MV Filitsa.
"The ship will be free once the money is properly secured but the security of those who received the ransom should be assured by their friends, who will stay onboard until sometime in the evening," Yare said.
He could not say how much was paid to the pirates but several other pirate sources put the figure between two and three million dollars.
The MV Filitsa was seized some 500 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles as it was sailing from the United Arab Emirates to the South African port of Durban.
It is one of 12 ships and more than 250 seamen still held by Somalia\’s pirates, who raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in 2009.