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Somali pirates free hijacked oil tanker, eight hostages


AFP
Mogadishu
Somali pirates on Thursday handed over an oil tanker and eight Sri Lankan hostages captured just days ago, the Oceans Beyond Piracy NGO told AFP, bringing to a close the first such attack since 2012.
"The Puntland maritime police force freed the ship. They made (the pirates) an offer they couldn't refuse and the pirates have left,"said John Steed, a former British army officer with the NGO who has spent years negotiating the release of piracy hostages in Somalia.
Earlier on Thursday the Puntland coastguard had threatened to use force if the talks to convince the pirates to release the vessel failed.
Armed attackers seized the Aris 13 on Monday as it made its way from Djibouti to Mogadishu, the first hijacking of a large merchant vessel by Somali pirates since 2012.
Steed said the pirates had left the Aris 13 ship, which was under control of the coast guard and on its way to the port city of Bossaso in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, on the northeastern tip of Somalia.
He was not able to provide more details on the conditions for the release of the vessel.
Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the Puntland maritime force, said earlier that a regional governor, who was not named, had been appointed to negotiate with the pirates.
The successful release came after a fierce firefight between the coast guard and armed men aboard a boat believed to be taking food and provisions to the hijacked tanker.

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