Somali pirates free Greek-owned ship, say ransom was $5.7 mln


MOGADISHU, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Somali pirates have releasedthe Greek-owned bulk carrier Free Goddess and its 21 Filipinocrew members after holding the vessel for more than eightmonths, the secretary general of the Seafarers Union of Kenyasaid on Friday.

Andrew Mwangura, whose role involves contact with shipssailing the Indian Ocean and catering for crews' welfare, said aransom was dropped onto the vessel from the air on Oct. 10.

"The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier Free Goddessis now free and she is heading to Salalah, Oman, for ... fuel,fresh water and a crew change," Mwangura told Reuters.

Pirates said the ship had been held at Garad, a haven inPuntland that they use.

"We took $5.7 million ransom after holding the ship formonths," a pirate in Garad called Mohamed told Reuters.

The amount of the ransom could not immediately be verifiedindependently.

Mwangura i s a former head of The East African Seafarers'Assistance Programme, a n independent organization for thewelfare of seafarers and a piracy monitoring group.

International navies have cracked down on pirates, includingstrikes on their coastal bases, and ship firms are increasinglyusing armed guards and defensive measures on vessels includingbarbed wire, scaring off Somali seaborne gangs.

That reduced the number of incidents involving Somalipirates to 69 in the first half of 2012, compared with 163 inthe same period last year, according to the InternationalMaritime Bureau.

However, the commander of the European Union's anti-piracytask force has warned that pirates would "try their luck" againfollowing a lull in attacks on the high seas off Somalia nowthat the monsoon period has ended.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Mohamed Ahmed in Mogadishu andAbdqani Hassan in Puntland and Richard Lough in Nairobi; Writingby Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia)

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