Somali pirates release oil tanker and crew, officials say

Somali pirates

Pirates on board a hijacked oil tanker anchored off the Somali coast have fired shots on maritime forces.

Pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged oil tanker have released the ship without conditions, an official says.

Pirate Abdulaahi claimed the pirates killed a member of the marine force and injured another, but Hassan said that was untrue.

Meanwhile, a bid to recapture the oil tanker held by pirates off the coast of Somalia has failed after hijackers opened fire on maritime forces.

But attacks fell sharply after crews put safety measures into place and regional naval forces stepped up patrols.

However, the local manpower agent who recruited the vessel crew Tyron Fernando said during a media conference held at the Ministry of Shipping that the pirates have not demanded any ransom as yet.

Contact via a telephone call has since been made with the ship's master from the EU Naval Force operation in London.

Aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy said in a statement late on Tuesday the ship was carrying gas and fuel and was not registered with the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa, which registers and tracks vessels in the region.

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On Wednesday, the European Union anti-piracy naval force, which is helping to tackle piracy in the region, said the hijackers had been demanding a ransom.

The tanker, which was making its way from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu, had changed its course, heading towards the coastline of the northeastern tip of Somalia.

Residents near the ship in the semi autonomous region of Puntland reported hearing gunfire.

It remains early to comment on the situation and the captives of the ship, but pirates threatened that they will defend themselves from everyone who attempts to force them.

"The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them", Hussein said by phone from an undisclosed location in northern Somalia. However, they are often harassed by illegal fisherman and large foreign trawlers off the country's north coast.

Many Somalis, including former pirates, depend on fishing to make a living.

However, some smaller fishing vessels have recently been seized in the area.

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