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Somali pirates free Panama-flagged ship
Thu, 28 Apr 2011 18:20:16 GMT
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Men believed to be pirates in a boat off the Somali coast (file photo)
After four months of captivity, the Panama-flagged bulk carrier MV Renuar has been released by the Somali pirates, the European Union's Naval Force says.

"The ship is now sailing to a safe port," EU Naval Force said in a statement on Thursday, but did not say whether the carrier's release was after the payment of ransom.

MV Renuar, with a crew of 24 Filipinos, was hijacked some 1,700 kilometers (1,050 nautical miles) east of the Somali coastal village of Eyl in December 2010.

The ship was hijacked only 880 kilometers (550 nautical miles) from the coast of India -- signaling a shift by pirates towards more open waters in an effort to evade anti-piracy forces in the Gulf of Aden.

Rampant piracy off the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia has made these waters among the most dangerous in the world.

The Gulf of Aden, which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, is the quickest route for more than 20,000 vessels traveling annually between Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

However, attacks by heavily armed Somali pirates on speedboats have prompted some of the world's largest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and reroute cargo vessels around southern Africa, leading to climbing shipping costs.

Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia has been embroiled in a bitter civil war for two decades.

The country does not have a functioning government and the authority of the so-called Transitional Federal Government is limited mostly to the areas around the capital Mogadishu.

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