Ransom paid: Somali pirates to release Lankan crew

By Leon Berenger

Somali hijackers holding the captain and a 13-member Sri Lankan crew of a Saudi flagged tanker have agreed to release the group after the company decided to pay the ransom, the local agent in Colombo said yesterday.

The Saudi company has already channeled an undisclosed sum of money through the relevant insurance agent to be handed over to the pirates, company’s local agent S. H. R. Kumar told The Sunday Times.

He said the Sri Lankans along with the Greek captain were likely to travel to Saudi Arabia within the next few days, adding that they were in good health and had been treated well by their captors.

The MT Al Nisr Al Saudi was hijacked by pirates off the Gulf of Aden earlier this week and taken to the pirate stronghold of Garad on the Somalian coast.

Meanwhile in a related incident a four-member Sri Lankan captain and crew on a Dubai-flagged tanker are being held in an Iranian jail for allegedly filtering crude oil from off-shore rigs, National Union of the Seafarers President Palitha Athukorale said.

He said the crew was arrested in late December, and an Iranian judge had slammed a fine of $500,000 or two years in jail.

Dannie Appuhamy, father of one of those detained, said that his son had informed him that they were arrested for illegal entry into the maritime borders of Iran.

He said that they had made representations with the Foreign Office in Colombo and Sri Lankan embassy officials in Tehran had visited the group in jail.

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