Pirates free Italian tug, crew of 16
ROME - Sixteen sailors, including 10 Italians, whose tug was seized by Somali pirates four months ago are free after the pirates abandoned the ship, Italian authorities said yesterday.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told SkyTg24 television news that the Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke notified him of the release Sunday evening.
“There was a very strong political intervention’’ between the Somali government and local authorities “who made the pirates understand that the only solution was the liberation of the hostages,’’ Frattini said on SkyTg24. “The pirates withdrew.’’
The Foreign Ministry said no ransom was paid.
The Italian-flagged Buccaneer tug was seized April 11 in the Gulf of Aden with a crew of 10 Italians, five Romanians, and a Croat. The Italian Navy ship Maestrale reached the area immediately afterward and maintained surveillance of the tug throughout the ordeal, along with another Italian naval vessel, ministry officials said.
Italian naval officers confirmed that the pirates had abandoned the ship and that the crew had retaken control, said Frattini.
Silvio Bartoletti - owner of the shipping company Micoperi, which owns the tug - said the sailors were undergoing medical checks on the tug, which was being escorted to nearby Djibouti by the Italian Navy. They were in good condition, he said.