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Hijacked Cargo Ships Released in Waters Off Somalia

In Somalia, two cargo vessels that had been hijacked by pirates have been released. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The first of the vessels seized, the MV Rozen, was in pirate hands for more than a month. It had just delivered 1,800 metric tons of relief food from the World Food Program on February 25 when pirates hijacked it.

The ship, leased from the Kenyan-based Motaku Shipping Company, and her 12-member crew were then held in a small port near the town of Bargal in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia.

The Motaku Shipping Company's manager Karim Kudrati tells VOA he has been negotiating with the hijackers since the middle of March through his agent in the Puntland town of Bosasso.

Kudrati says he began negotiating only after he lost confidence in the ability of Somalia's transitional government to help him recover his ship and crew.

"We were being told by the authorities concerned that there is something happening, there is something happening and we'll get to you soon, but it was not happening and it dragged on up to 39 days," said Kudrati. "There was no other solution to it, so when I took it upon myself and told my agent to see if he could find a bunch of elders who could go and speak to these guys."

The ship was released late Thursday night.

Kudrati says this is the fourth hijacking of his company's ships off the coast of Somalia in two years.

He says his company is the only one willing to go to Somali because of the piracy problem, mostly to deliver humanitarian food aid.

But, says Kudrati, his company might reconsider delivering shipments to Somalia because ransom payments have taken a huge chunk out of his business and the crew is less willing to take risks now.

"Now I think their morale is very down, and I don't know whether they would agree even to go back. But I also am feeling a very bad pinch," he added. "Nobody is coming and compensating me. I might decide to close down completely."

The other hijacked vessel, the MV Nimatullah, was released Friday after being held by pirates for less than a week. It had just anchored at Mogadishu port on April 1 when hijackers forced the ship and her 14-member crew to sail to waters off northeastern Somalia.

Piracy has been a big problem in Somali waters, with warlords and their militias using piracy as a source of income.