December 02, 2011 13:23
Somali pirates on Wednesday released the Singaporean-owned freighter MT Gemini and 21 of its crew but refused to release four Korean crewmembers. The ship's owner, Glory Ship Management, said the pirates broke an earlier promise at the last moment by taking them off the ship and then to shore.
The 21 people released -- 13 Indonesians, 5 Chinese and 3 Burmese -- are all reported to be in good health.
The tanker was transporting 28,000 tons of crude palm oil from Indonesia to Kenya when it was hijacked in waters off Mombasa on April 30.
Just three months before that, Korean military commandos rescued 21 crew from a separate freighter, the Samho Jewelry, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2010. Eight Somali pirates were killed in the operation and five others were captured. Those that survived were later sentenced to prison in Korea.
In July, pirates holding the MT Gemini demanded compensation for the pirates killed in the Samho Jewelry operation and also asked for the release of their captured comrades.
Korean officials suspect the pirates took the Korean crew to Somali territory either to claim a bigger ransom or to bargain for a release of the jailed pirates.
The ship's operator said it is working to secure the release of the remaining hostages, and Korea's Foreign Ministry said it will closely work with the company to have them freed, though it reiterated that it will not negotiate with pirates.
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