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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Somali pirates free seized ships
Map of Somalia
Somali pirates have released two merchant ships hijacked off the coast of north-east Somalia, a maritime official has said.

A UN-chartered ship, the MV Rozen, and the Indian MV Nimatullah were released on Friday, Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme said.

Mr Mwangura said the crews of both ships were safe. One report quoted him as saying a ransom had been paid.

Piracy was rampant in Somalia, but stopped during recent Islamist rule.

The MV Rozen was seized along with its 12-strong crew in February while trying to deliver food aid to the war-torn country.

The Indian dhow, which had 14 crew members, was hijacked after it tried to deliver 800 tons of cargo to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Mr Mwangura said both vessels were now on their way to Kenya.

Since the overthrow of the Union of Islamic Courts at the turn of the year, Somalia has been descending back into the violence and chaos seen in the previous 16 years.

Maritime officials fear the recent hijackings may signal a resumption of lawlessness on the seas.

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