October 1, 2008

Somali Pirates Free Malaysian Chemical Tanker

Somali pirates free Malaysian chemical tanker

NAIROBI, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Somali pirates have released Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker M/T Bunga Melati which was hijacked off the Gulf of Aden on August 29, a regional maritime official disclosed on Tuesday.

Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program said the chemical tanker owned by Malaysian national carrier MISC was freed after its owners paid a ransom of two million U.S. dollars.

"The Somali pirates released Bunga Melati Dua for two million dollars ransom. She is now underway to safe waters. The money was paid on Saturday and the vessel was released early Monday," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

Bunga Melati 5 was the second vessel of the Malaysian national carrier MISC seized by the pirates in the Gulf of Aden and also the second to be released in a week.

The hijacked ship had a crew of 36 Malaysians and five Filipinos and was carrying 30,000 tons of petrochemicals and on its way to Singapore from Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

"One of the crew members died when he was hit by a ricocheting bullet when the pirates who boarded the vessel fired warning shots but the remaining 35 are reported to be in good condition," said Mwangura.

The Horn of Africa nation's 3,300-km coastline is considered one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy.

The country has been plagued by factional fighting and has not had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former ruler Mohammed Siad Barre.

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