Page last updated at 05:28 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Chinese ship crew 'rescued' from Somali pirates

A member of the Chinese navy's special force on the deck of DDG-171 Haikou destroyer
China has a force of three ships patrolling the Gulf of Aden

China says it has rescued the 25 crew members of a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in October.

No mention of ransom payment was made, despite reports that $4m (£2.5m) was delivered on Sunday.

The De Xin Hai bulk carrier is under Chinese naval escort after the rescue operation, the foreign ministry said.

The hijack was the first of a Chinese ship since China posted three warships to join the international anti-piracy force in the Gulf of Aden.

The De Xin Hai was carrying about 76,000 tonnes of coal from South Africa to India when it was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on 19 October.

The ship was taken east of the Horn of Africa, 350 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 700 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia.

A man described as one of the pirates told Reuters news agency that a helicopter had dropped a $4m ransom onto the deck of the ship, opening the way to their release.

The De Xin Hai has been anchored off the pirate stronghold of Hobyo on Somalia's east coast since the middle of October.

The waters around Somalia are among the most dangerous in the world.

Correspondent say the upsurge in piracy in the region is a consequence of the failure to find a solution to Somalia's political disputes.

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