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Ukrainian Ship Freed By Somali Pirates


The Ukrainian MV Faina was seized by pirates in September
The office of the Ukrainian president says that a Ukrainian cargo ship captured by Somali pirates has been released.

"On February 4, the ship was freed after a very difficult operation carried out by the Ukrainian special services in cooperation with foreign special services," the office of President Viktor Yushchenko said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"All the members of the crew are healthy and safe and are on board the Faina. At this moment the ship, protected by the U.S. Navy, is preparing to travel to the Kenyan port of Mombasa," the statement said.

Reuters quotes a local man who helped negotiate the ship's release as saying that the Somali pirates received a ransom for the ship. The man told Reuters the pirates had been paid a ransom of $3.2 million.

Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, a Kenyan-based piracy monitoring group, said earlier that about 100 gunmen were aboard the vessel checking the ransom payment.

The MV Faina was captured in September with its 20-man crew and a cargo of 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks, along with other weapons.

Its seizure drew international attention, not only for its military cargo, but for a regional row over the destination of the tanks.

Somali pirates have captured three boats so far in 2009, after taking a record 42 last year in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes. Anarchy and an Islamist insurgency onshore have fueled the upsurge of piracy.

Compiled from agency reports