Somali Pirates Release Hijacked UAE-Owned Ship

Somali pirates on Friday released a UAE-owned ship they captured a week ago, a regional maritime official said.

The owners of the MV Victoria told the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program that the ship was released Friday and is now traveling with a handful of Somali soldiers on board to ensure its safe passage, said Andrew Mwangura, who is the coordinator of the program.

Marwan Shipping and Trading Company, based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, owns the MV Victoria, but the vessel flies a Jordanian flag, Mwangura told The Associated Press.

He said he did not know under what terms the pirates released the ship.

The MV Victoria will travel to the Somali capital, Mogadishu — its destination before it was hijacked on May 17 — to offload its cargo, Mwangura said.

There have been conflicting reports about whether the ship is carrying humanitarian aid or commercial cargo.

The ship has about a dozen crew members from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Tanzania.

Somalia, which has been in a state of anarchy since warlords overthrew long-serving dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, does not have a coast guard or navy.

This month's hijacking was the second time the Victoria was attacked. Pirates tried to board it outside a southern Somalian port, Merka, last year, but the ship escaped.

Piracy is rampant along the 1,880-mile (3,000-kilometer) Somali coast, which is the longest in Africa and is near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. There have been more than a dozen pirate attacks this year alone.

On Thursday, South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said that U.N. experts monitoring a 1992 arms embargo in Somalia are currently investigating the links between piracy and arms trafficking. The experts are also investigating allegations that pirates received "active support" from government officials in charge of the ports, Kumalo said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that was released by the world body.

Last month, the United States and France introduced a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia's coast. The resolution came in response to the increase in attacks this year and last year compared with 2006 when they had dwindled.