Somali pirates paid millions for hostages

Spain’s prime minister did little to deny a payment was made – one reason the lucrative attacks are on the rise.

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Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Somali pirates have freed the Spanish trawler Alakrana with crew of 36 after holding them hostage for more than six weeks. Photo AP

Shortly after being freed, the tuna boat Alakrana steamed out to sea under the protection of two Spanish warships. All 36 crew were reported to be in good health after more than six weeks in captivity.

The release came despite the fact that two Somali pirates in Spanish custody soon will stand trial for kidnapping and related charges.

A Somali villager named Ali Ahmed Salad said 12 armed pirates left the ship shortly after noon Tuesday and joined colleagues near the pirate town of Haradhere.

Ali Gab, a self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press that a boat had delivered $3.3 million in ransom. Gab said pirates began leaving the ship shortly afterward, and that a Spanish warship nearby watched the proceedings.

The EU Naval Force said the Alakrana had made its way to the open sea late Tuesday, accompanied by two Spanish warships.

“Alakrana stated in her call that all the pirates had disembarked the ship and that she had sufficient fuel,” the force said in a statement. “The captain also reported that the crew of 36 were in good health.”

In Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was evasive when asked if the government had taken part in payment of a ransom. “The government did what it had to do,” he told a news conference in Madrid after talks with the president of Hungary.

“The important thing is that the sailors will be back with us,” Zapatero said. “The first obligation of a country, of the government of a state, is to save the lives of its countrymen.”

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