Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Somali pirates free Taiwanese fishing boat

Somali pirate (file image)
Piracy has made Somali waters among the world's most dangerous

A Taiwanese tuna fishing boat held by Somali pirates for 10 months has been freed after the owner paid a ransom, a maritime agency said.

The Win Far 161, was hijacked in April last year near the Seychelles.

Ecoterra, a Kenya-based agency that monitors shipping in Somali waters, said three of the boat's original crew of 30 had died during their captivity.

"The three died of malnutrition, disease and neglect over the course of the last month," Ecoterra said.

The agency said the boat had been freed for a "relatively small ransom".

The surviving crew are said to be 17 Filipinos, four Indonesians, four Chinese and two Taiwanese.

'Mother ship'

Ecoterra said that the Win Far - a tuna long-liner - had been used as a "mother ship" from which to attack other vessels including the US-flagged Maersk Alabama.

Somali pirates still hold at least seven ships and more than 160 crew members.

Captives include British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler who were seized while sailing their yacht towards Tanzania from the Seychelles on 23 October.

Last week, Danish special forces serving with Nato's counter-piracy operation freed the crew of a cargo ship boarded by pirates off Somalia.

Piracy has made the seas off the horn of Africa among the most dangerous in the world, despite patrols from foreign naval forces.

War-ravaged Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991.

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