Pirates Free Algerian Ship, Hijack Another

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Somali pirates on Thursday freed an Algerian-owned ship with 25 crew members onboard after 10 months of captivity, the same day pirates hijacked a chemical tanker with 21 Filipino crew members.

The European Union Naval Force's Cmdr. Harrie Harrison said the pirates freed the MV Blida and it was on its way to a port. Its crew members come from Algeria, Ukraine and the Philippines. Two became severely ill during their captivity and were released by the pirates to naval vessels nearby.

The ship was hijacked in January about 150 nautical miles southeast of the Omani port of Salalah.

The Philippine government, meanwhile, said Thursday that the MT Liquid Velvet was seized Monday as it approached the gulf heading to India. The ship is flagged in the Marshall Islands with Greek ownership.

Spokesman Raul Hernandez of the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Manama, Bahrain, were ordered to monitor the situation and coordinate

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Hernandez said 43 Filipinos on five other vessels are in pirate hands. About a third of the 1.5 million commercial seafarers worldwide are Filipino.

The EU Naval Force says pirates held nine ships and about 250 hostages as of October.