Hijacked Japanese ship, with 18 Indians on board, released

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New Delhi, Nov 16 (UNI) Hijacked Japanese merchant ship 'MT Stolt Valor', with a crew of 22 including 18 Indians, was released two months after its capture by Somalian pirates this morning, following a 'negotiated settlement' between the vessel owners and hijackers.

The ship's crew, which included two Filipinos a Russian and Bangladeshi national along with 18 Indians, was released off the coast of Somalia, according to official sources.

According to NSFA chairman, all crew members, including 18 Indians, were safe.

''Indian members of the crew on board 'Stolt Valor' were on way to Mumbai,'' said another official.

Sources said the release followed two-month long negotiations between 'Slolt Valor' owners and the Somalian pirates who had initially demanded two million dollar for the release.

While declining to say how much exactly was paid, sources added that the ransom amount was indeed paid.

Meanwhile, Seema Goyal, wife of captain Prabhat Goyal (who commanded 'Stolt Valor') and one who had been persistently pursuing the release of seafarers with the ship's company and the Indian government, has been informed about the release by company officials, sources added.

The Japanese merchant vessel, managed by 'Fleet Marine Ltd' in Mumbai, was hijacked near the Gulf of Aden, at the pirate town of Eyl on the Indian Ocean, on September 15 by pirates off the Somalian coast.

This year alone over 60 attacks on ships have been reported off the Somalian waters, said to be pirates' haven and one of the most dangerous travel zones in the region.

Daring pirates still hold to ransom nearly two dozen ships even as several warships from European countries, including Russia, patrol in the region.

Wary of its merchant cargo being adversely affected due to pirates attack in the region, which accounts for a major portion of its maritime trade, India deployed its warships in the Gulf of Aden last month.

Its first success came after its warship 'INS Tabar' repulsed attempts by pirates to hijack two vessels - an Indian cargo vessel and a merchant ship from Saudi Arabia.

UNI AN PD KN1630

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