4 Dec 2008

Pirates release cargo ship

8:18 am on 4 December 2008

Somali pirates have reportedly freed without a ransom a Yemeni cargo ship captured last week.

A Somali official in the breakaway Puntland region says the MV Amani has left the northern Somali pirate stronghold of Eyl bound for Yemen.

Somali pirates have obtained millions of dollars in ransoms from attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

One gang is still holding a Saudi oil tanker seized last month - the largest vessel hijacked so far.

Ali Abdi Aware said the Amani was freed on Tuesday night after talks between regional authorities, clan elders and the gunmen. He said the crew was safe and no ransom was paid.

The Amani was seized with a crew of seven on 25 November while carriing more than 500 tonnes of steel from Yemen to Socotra Island. It is owned by a Yemeni shipping firm, Abu Talal.

There have been nearly 100 pirate attacks in Somalian waters this year, despite the presence of several foreign warships.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council extended its approval for countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters to stop acts of piracy.

The 12-month extension allows nations - with advance notice - to use "all necessary means" to combat piracy in the region.

The council also backed the deployment next week of an EU naval warship flotilla to tackle piracy off Somalia's coast.