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German Foreign Ministry Confirms Kidnap of Citzens off Somalia

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday, June 24 that two people abducted by pirates off the lawless Somali coast are German citizens.

United Nations African Union troops patrol the Somali coast due to growing piracy

United Nations and African Union troops continue to patrol the Somali coast for pirates

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday, June 24 that two people abducted by pirates off the lawless Somali coast are German citizens.

"We must assume with a high degree of likelihood that this is a kidnapping," spokesman Martin Jaeger said.

Early reports had claimed that four Europeans were kidnapped, including a pilot and a young child, but the ministry said there was no evidence a child had been involved. The pirates said they were holding only the couple.

The pirates Tuesday demanded a ransom for the release of the couple, believed to be in their 50s, who were abducted as they sailed through the Gulf of Aden on a trip from Egypt to Thailand.

The district commissioner of the Laas Qoray area, Yusuf Jama Dabeed, said that troops from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland found the yacht abandoned on the shore, but that by that point the kidnappers had taken their captives into the mountains.

It is believed that the kidnapping was an opportunistic action that involved both pirates and local fishermen.

A separate group of Somali pirates Tuesday released a cargo ship they had been holding for several weeks. The Turkey-flagged cargo ship MV Arean which was seized off the lawless Somali coast at the end of May

"The vessel was released last night (Tuesday) around 8 pm local time (1700 GMT) - the pirates took delivery of a ransom of one million dollars before they released the ship," one of the mediators, who requested not to be named, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Somali authorities have in the past criticized the practice of paying ransoms, saying it only encourages more piracy.

The German Navy helped the crew of the released vessel after receiving a call for help, delivering food and water.

There was some confusion, however over whether the ship released was the Turkish MV Arean or the Dutch MV Amiya Scan.

Fate of German ship hangs in the balance

The fate of the German MV Lehmann Timber, which was captured around the same time as the other ships, still hangs in the balance, however.

The elder said that negotiations for the release of the ship were in deadlock and that some of the crew members -- who are from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Myanmar -- were ill.

The most high-profile case in recent months involved the capture of a luxury French yacht in April. French troops rescued the hostages and captured six of the pirates, although another six are believed to have escaped.

The UN Security Council recently approved incursions into Somali waters to curb piracy, which the weak transitional government, currently engaged in countering a bloody insurgency, is powerless to prevent.

Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

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