Somali pirates free Thai fishermen held for four years
Four Thai nationals seized from a fishing vessel by Somali pirates nearly five years ago have been released, the UN and local officials have said.
It is believed that they spent longer in captivity than any other victims of Somali piracy.
The four were among 24 crew members seized in April 2010 after pirates hijacked the Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel FV Prantalay 12.
At one time Somali pirates made millions of dollars in ransoms.
But their tactic of seizing ships has been curtailed since 2012 because of increased patrols by international navies in the Indian Ocean and ships improving their onboard security.
“We collected them from a remote area,” Omar Sheikh Ali, an official in Somalia’s central Galmudug administration, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Mr Ali said the men were able to contact family members soon after their release on Wednesday.
“They called their families by phone and cried and cried and cried,” he said.
It is not known whether any ransom was paid for the releases. One unconfirmed report claims $150,000 (£97,000) was handed over while another says $1m (£650,000) was paid.
Some reports say the pirates were losing patience with feeding and taking care of the hostages for so long, and had borrowed a large sum of money.
UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay said the FV Prantalay 12 was used by the pirates as a base before it capsized in July 2011. The remaining crew members were taken ashore, he said.
He said six members of the original crew of 24 died of illness, while another 14 from Myanmar were released in May 2011.
Somali pirates are still holding 26 more hostages from another vessel, Mr Kay said.