Somali Pirates Free 22 Asian Sailors, Hijacked Ship

A group of 22 Asian sailors has been released after more than a month of captivity since their cargo ship was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, a South Korean official said Thursday.

The crew members — eight South Koreans and 14 Myanmar citizens — were heading toward a U.S. navy vessel in the area after being set free earlier in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young told reporters.

Moon said the sailors were all safe but declined to comment on whether a ransom was paid.

The South Korean cargo vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates on Sept. 10 in the Gulf of Aden.

The latest incident has prompted the South Korean government to considering dispatching naval vessels in waters off Somalia to counter any possible hijacking of South Korean ships.

Somalia, which has had no functioning government since 1991, is the world's top piracy hot spot. It is located along the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is one of the world's busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through it each year.

Meanwhile, India is sending naval warships to the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy patrol to protect Indian flagships during passage between Oman and Yemen, a Defense Ministry statement said Thursday.