, MOGADISHU, Somalia, Sep 24 – Somali pirates on Tuesday freed a German-American journalist and writer, Michael Scott Moore, two and a half years after he was kidnapped in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, officials said.
A Somali pirate source, who asked not to be named, said a ransom was paid for his release, without giving more details.
“The journalist was released and handed over to Puntland authorities today and he was flown from Galkayo airport,” the deputy governor of Mudug region, Ahmed Muse Nur, told reporters.
Mudug is situated in north-central Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland, where the journalist was kidnapped in January 2012.
The region has become infamous as a hub for pirates, sitting outside the control of both the central government and the country’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab rebels.
In Berlin, a German foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed “that a German citizen, who also has US citizenship and who was abducted in Somalia, went free today”, without providing any further details.
News website Spiegel Online quoted unnamed security officials as saying that Moore was in good shape, given the circumstances, and “thrilled to be free”.
The 45-year-old, who had worked for Spiegel Online in Berlin before he travelled to Somalia to write a book on piracy, was met by German officials, according to the report, which added that he will now receive a medical examination and counselling.
In the years since his kidnapping, Moore’s captors frequently posted pictures of him on the Internet. German and US officials had negotiated for the past two and a half years for his release.
Spiegel quoted its chief editor Wolfgang Buechner thanking all who contributed to his release.
“We never gave up hope and are overjoyed, together with Michael and his mother Marlis, that this nightmare is finally over,” he said.
An environmental and rights group based in Nairobi monitoring regional maritime activity, Ecoterra International, said in January 2012 that a Somali pirate gang snatched Moore on the road to Galkayo airport and drove him to a remote area.
Pirate attacks off Somalia have been slashed in recent years, with international fleets patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, as well as armed guards being posted aboard many vessels.
At their peak in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats, some onshore and others on their vessels.
Foreign special forces have launched raids to rescue their nationals, including one in 2012 by US elite commandos who swooped in by helicopter to free two aid workers held for three months.
Those left behind come largely from nations without the capabilities to send in troops to rescue impoverished fishermen, or without the desire or means to pay ransoms.
According to security sources, around 40 foreign nationals, most of them fishermen, are still being held by pirates.