Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 10:04 UK

Yemen tanker seized from pirates

file photo of pirate
Pirates have continued raids despite warship patrols off Somalia

Yemeni special forces have freed an oil tanker captured by Somali pirates, Yemeni officials say.

Eleven pirates were arrested in the operation, they said. The Qana was seized on Sunday but was not carrying cargo at the time.

It was one of four tankers attacked off Yemen's coast but coastguards freed the other vessels after a fierce battle.

On Saturday an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 passengers fended off an attack from pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The Qana is being escorted to the Yemeni city of al-Mukalla, according to AFP news agency.

On Sunday pirates freed another Yemeni-owned tanker, the Sea Princess II, which had been held since January. There were no details about the conditions of the release.

Yemen lies 700 miles from Somalia, where the pirates operate from. The BBC's Christian Fraser in Cairo says they are taking advantage of current favourable weather conditions to launch attacks further afield.

Last year, pirates attacked more than 100 ships in the region, demanding huge ransoms for their release. Attacks have intensified recently despite the presence of international warships - part of an effort to counter piracy.

Some 16 vessels and 270 hostages are still being held by pirates demanding vast ransoms for their release our correspondent says.

They have freed a number of ships, but attacks have continued.

Somalia has been without an effective administration since 1991, fuelling the lawlessness which has allowed piracy to thrive.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

Scroll to the right for a story about the Philippines, which supplies many of the world's mariners.

You can zoom in for more detail by using the "+" or "-" signs on the upper left hand side.

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