NAIROBI, Kenya – Somali pirates on Wednesday released a South Korean ship seized four months ago while fishing for crabs, while another group of sea bandits captured a Greek-flagged supertanker carrying oil to the Gulf of Mexico.
The attack against the supertanker is the second successful attack against an oil tanker in two days. Such vessels can command higher ransoms because of the value of the crude on board.
Increasing ransoms for captured ships and crew appear to have given pirates even more incentives to launch attacks despite stepped-up patrols by an international flotilla of warships. With Wednesday's release and capture, pirates now hold at least 29 ships and 660 hostages.
South Korea's foreign ministry said pirates released the Keummi 305 and its crew — 39 Kenyans, two South Koreans and two Chinese sailors. The ship was last reported sailing away from Somalia toward international waters.
A vessel from the EU Naval Force was sailing toward the ship to secure the safety of sailors at the request of a South Korean navy vessel, the ministry said. The 241-ton Kenya-registered trawler was attacked Oct. 9 in the waters off Kenya's Lamu Island.
No information about a ransom was reported, but Somali pirates are regularly paid several million dollars to release ships and crew. Pirates were reportedly paid $9.5 million for one release late last year, according to reports that analysts found to be credible.
Meanwhile, pirates seized the Greek-flagged supertanker with 25 crew on board off the coast of Oman, Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry said.
The Irene SL was sailing 200 nautical miles (360 kilometers) east of Oman with a cargo of 266,000 tons of crude oil and a crew of seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian when it was attacked, the ministry said.
The tanker was sailing from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. The ministry said authorities had lost contact with the ship since the attack.
The Piraeus-based shipping company First Navigation Special Maritime Enterprises confirmed its ship had been attacked by pirates but had no further comment.
The Irene SL was the second oil tanker to be attacked in that region in two days. On Tuesday, Somali pirates firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked an Italian-flagged oil tanker in the Indian Ocean that had been heading from Sudan to Malaysia.
British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Susie Thomson, a spokeswoman for the multinational Task Force 152 based in Bahrain, said that pirates have been waging attacks increasingly deeper into the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Pirates have launched attacks more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of Somalia.
Associated Press writers Kim Kwang-tae in Seoul, South Korea, and Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece contributed to this report.