ATHENS, Greece – Somali pirates released a Greek-owned tanker that was hijacked in September, a Greek government spokesman said Saturday.
The tanker MV Genius was released Friday with its cargo of refined oil intact and the crew of 19 safe, Merchant Marine Ministry spokesman Constantine Gialelis said. He said the ship's owners would not provide any information, including whether ransom was paid.
The 6,765 gross-ton vessel is on its way to the United Arab Emirates and is about 500 miles off Somalia, Gialelis said. The crew are Georgian, Sri Lankan and Syrian citizens, he added.
Somali pirates seized the vessel Sept. 26 in the Gulf of Aden near the Horn of Africa, waters that have become highly dangerous for shipping.
In the past two weeks, Somalia's increasingly brazen pirates have seized eight vessels, including a huge Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil. Several hundred crew are now in the hands of Somali pirates. The pirates dock the hijacked ships near the eastern and southern Somali coast and negotiate for ransom.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Friday that the Saudi government was not negotiating with pirates and would not do so, but that what the ship's owners did was up to them.
The same day, a radical Islamic group in Somalia said ships belonging to Muslim countries should not be seized and that it would fight the pirates holding the Saudi supertanker.
NATO has four warships on duty off the 2,400-mile-long coastline of Somalia, an impoverished nation caught up in an Islamic insurgency that has had no functioning government since 1991.
The U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, contributes to the policing of the coast with several ships stationed in the region as part of America's anti-jihadist war. Working alongside are frigates from several other nations — including Russia, India, Malaysia and Denmark.
Next month, the European Union takes over the NATO mission, sending four ships to replace the four now patrolling under the NATO flag.