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Somali troops rescue 22 hostages from pirates

Mogadishu, Dec 23, 2012 (AFP) 21:54 IST
 REUTERS file photo
Troops from the autonomous Somali region of Puntland said today they have freed 22 hostages, including Indians, who were captured by pirates on a ship off the Yemeni coast in 2009.

"Puntland government forces conducting a humanitarian rescue operation have safely rescued 22 hostages on board the MV Iceberg 1 vessel," according to Puntland statement.

It said the rescue of the multinational crew came after two weeks of "fighting pirates and laying siege to the vessel". The Panamian-flagged ship owned by a Dubai-based firm was seized in the Gulf of Aden in March 2009.

"After two years and nine months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness," the authorities said. "The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care."

The rescued crew members were believed to hail from several countries including Ghana, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan and Yemen.

Piracy has long flourished off war-torn Somalia, outwitting international efforts to stamp out the scourge, including patrols by warships and tough sentencing of captured pirates.

But the pirates have lost ground this year after a beefing up of patrols and armed security aboard ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

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