Somali pirates release ship and hostages with no ransom

Somali pirates

A Somali marine force official said: "We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped".

The director of Puntland's anti-piracy agency, Abdirizak Mohamed Ahmed, said they were not aware of any threats issued by the pirates against the crew.

The pirates seized the Comoros-flagged Aris 13 tanker on Monday, the first such hijacking in the region since 2012, and took it to the port of Alula in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

Local media reports that five to six people have been reported as injured as a result of the exchange of gunfire. "Aris 13, that his ship and crew are now being held captive by a number of suspected armed pirates in an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, close to Alula", the force said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Coastal Somalis, including pirates who quit as worldwide patrols increased and became fisherman, have complained of growing harassment by illegal fishermen and attacks by large foreign trawlers.

On Wednesday, the European Union anti-piracy naval force, which is helping to tackle piracy in the region, said the hijackers had been demanding a ransom.

The ship had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, when it was approached by men in two skiffs.

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A U.N. shipping database shows the Aris 13 is owned by Armi Shipping SA, whose address is listed in care of Aurora Ship Management FZE, a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

"If they do not get off, we shall fight to rescue the ship", Hassan told Reuters. The ships tracking system has reportedly been switched off.

"These are fishermen who are infuriated with the illegal fishing off their coasts".

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry has confirmed that eight of its nationals are on board the vessel.

At the height of the crisis in 2011, there were 237 attacks and the annual cost of piracy was estimated to be up to $8bn (£7bn).

But frustrations have been rising among local fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.

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