A Somali pirate says 26 sailors who were held hostage for over four years have been released after ransom was paid.

The crew from Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, China and the Philippines had been among the few hostages still in the hands of Somali pirates.

Bile Hussein says the sailors who were released Saturday were the crew of the FV Naham 3, a Taiwan-owned fishing vessel seized by pirates in March 2012. The ship later sank.

Hussein says $1.5 million in ransom was paid for the sailors' release. His claim could not be independently verified.

Piracy off Somalia's coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry, but attacks have dropped dramatically in recent years after ships began carrying armed guards and European Union naval forces increased patrols.