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Piracy latest: Chinese fishing boat released

Shanghai: A Chinese fishing boat and its 24-member crew held by Somali pirates for three months were released Sunday, AFP writes. According to a statement by China's foreign affairs ministry, the ship, the Tianyu No 8, which was hijacked on November 14, was released at 0900 GMT yesterday.

The ministry credited Chinese diplomats in Kenya and Ethiopia as well as the ship's owners, the Tianjin Ocean Fishing Company, with helping secure the release, but gave no further details.

The newly-released boat was being escorted to safety by a Chinese naval convoy sent to Gulf of Aden last month on a landmark mission to protect the country's shipping from pirates, the ministry said.

It said the crew, which included 15 mainland Chinese and one Taiwanese sailor, were in the care of the Chinese navy and were undergoing health checks. Although the ministry did not give the nationalities of the other eight crew members, previous media reports had said there were four Vietnamese, three Filipinos and one Japanese on board.

The pirates had previously claimed they seized the Chinese vessel 30 miles (48 kilometres) off Somalia's southern port of Kismayu because it was fishing in Somali territorial waters, according to China's official Xinhua news agency. They said the crew would be "put before the law and punished accordingly." The crew were unarmed when they were captured, according to previous reports.

The statement made no reference to any ransom being paid to the pirates.  [10/02/09]

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