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Somali forces free Panama ship from pirates

Somali security forces freed a Panamanian ship from pirates on Tuesday, officials said, two days after they killed one of the hijackers in a gun battle.

Somali forces free Panama ship from pirates
14 October 2008 - 12:20

Somali forces free Panama ship from pirates

BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali security forces freed a Panamanian ship from pirates on Tuesday, officials said, two days after they killed one of the hijackers in a gun battle.

The Wail was seized by heavily armed Somali gunmen on Thursday as it carried cement to Bosasso from Oman. There are thought to be nine Syrian and two Somali crew members onboard.

"We have succeeded in saving the Panama-flagged ship and its crew," Ali Abdi Aware, state minister for the semi-autonomous northern Puntland region, told Reuters. "The pirates have surrendered and the ship is in our hands now."

Puntland's fisheries minister, Ahmed Said Ow Nur, said 10 hijackers were arrested and two soldiers wounded in the raid.

"The ship is now sailing towards Bosasso," he told Reuters.

Another senior Puntland government official said the Wail had been slightly damaged during an earlier shoot-out on Sunday in which one pirate and one Somali soldier were killed.

Puntland security forces also seized two of the speedboats used by the gang during that operation, and had been surrounding the Panamanian-flagged vessel since then.

Somali pirates have hijacked more than 30 ships so far this year and received ransoms totalling $18-30 million, making the waters off the Horn of Africa nation the world's most dangerous.

In the highest profile case for years, ransom talks are continuing after they seized a Ukrainian vessel, the MV Faina, which was loaded with 33 T-72 tanks and other weaponry.

Last week, the 26-nation NATO military alliance agreed to join anti-piracy operations by sending seven frigates this month to combat the hijackers and escort humanitarian aid ships.

Somalia has been mired in civil conflict since 1991.

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