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Somali pirates free Greek tanker after record ransom

Maran Centaurus supertanker, file image
The Maran Cantaurus was seized near the Seychelles

Somali pirates have freed a Greek-owned oil tanker, a day after one of the largest ransoms ever paid was delivered to the ship, officials say.

The Maran Centaurus, one of the largest oil tankers ever seized, was captured on 29 November with 28 crew members.

A ransom of between $5.5m and $7m (£3.4m-£4.3m) was dropped on the deck of the supertanker.

The money sparked an argument among the pirates and it is believed that at least one of the hijackers has died.

The BBC's Somali Service has reports that as many as three pirates have died.

Residents of the Somali port town of Harardere said there were bodies in the streets after fierce infighting.

"I saw one dead body and two wounded but the final death toll may be more," town resident Abdullahi Haji Mohamed told the AFP news agency.

The European Naval forces confirmed to the BBC that there had been clashes delaying the release of the tanker, which is now under naval escort as it sails to South Africa.

Lawless coast

When it was hijacked, the Maran Centaurus was sailing near the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, about 1,300km (800 miles) off Somalia.

Its crew is made up of 16 Filipinos, nine Greeks, two Ukrainians and one Romanian.

It is carrying about two million barrels of oil, the equivalent of the daily output of some of the world's top oil producers.

War-torn Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991, allowing pirates to operate along the lawless coast, almost with impunity.

In recent months, the pirates have started operating further from the Somali coast as international navies try to protect shipping against attacks.

In November 2008, another oil tanker, the Sirius Star, which was also carrying some two million barrels of oil, became the largest ship ever seized by pirates.

The vessel was released in January after a ransom of $3m (then £1.95m) was paid.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
New StatesmanGreek tanker released after unprecedented ransom paid - 30 mins ago
IAfrica.com Pirates clash over cash - 2 hrs ago
China Post Pirates free oil tanker for record ransom - 7 hrs ago
Yahoo! News Pirates get record ransom for Greek supertanker (AFP) - 7 hrs ago
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