NAIROBI (AFP) — A Spanish fishing boat seized by pirates off the Somali coast and held for six days was freed after a 1.2 million-dollar ransom was paid, a maritime official said Sunday.
"The Spanish fishing boat Playa de Bakio has been released after a ransom of 1.2 million dollars was paid," Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme said in a statement.
The boat was freed on Saturday and headed towards the Seychelles under the escort of a Spanish frigate. It is expected to dock at port Victoria on Tuesday.
Mwangura said the boat, which was captured on April 20, "suffered heavy damage caused by gun fire and looting during the piracy attack."
On Saturday, Spanish news media said that a ransom of one million euros (1.55 million dollars) had been demanded and that negotiations were taking place at a London hotel.
But the Spanish government had said there had been "no official contact"with the kidnappers, while not ruling out the possibility of direct contact between the pirates and the boat's owners, who are from the northern Basque region.
Armed pirates seized the 76-metre (250-foot) trawler and its crew were while fishing for tuna off Somalia.
The Spanish government sent a frigate, the Mendez Nunez, to the area from the Red Sea, and a surveillance plane to the French military base in neighbouring Djibouti to carry out reconnaissance.
The coastal waters off Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity, are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.
More than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters last year despite US navy patrols, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
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