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Germany

German Hostages Freed in Somalia

Somali pirates have released a German couple kidnapped in late June as they sailed through the Gulf of Aden. It's unclear who paid the ransom.

Juergen and Sabine sit at a table with bottled water in front of them

Juergen and Sabine after their release

District Commissioner Yusuf Jama said the couple, identified only as Juergen and Sabine, were released Friday and were in the port town of Bosasso in the semi-autonomous Puntland.

The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed their freeing, saying the couple were being looked after by embassy officials in Nairobi.

A spokesman said they were recovering from their ordeal and that they were relatively well, considering the circumstances.

The couple, both in their fifties, were said to be in poor health -- particularly Juergen, who suffers from diabetes. The two Germans were expected to fly to Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, later on Saturday to catch a flight home.

The German embassy in Nairobi, however, refused to confirm or deny this report.

Map of Somalia with Puntland marked in the north

Puntland lies in the northern part of Somalia

Pirates abducted the couple from their yacht off the lawless Horn of Africa nation's coast on June 23. They took them into a nearby mountain range and demanded a ransom of $2 million (1.33 million euros) for their release. The official position is that the pirates were paid a million-dollar ransom, but it is not clear who paid the money.

However, a mediator close to the deal told DPA news agency in Nairobi that the pirates received only $600,000 dollars, while the Puntland authorities received $400,000.

Piracy on the increase

The release comes after two Italian aid workers with the organization Italian Cooperation North-South (CINS) were freed earlier in the week after being seized in May. A ransom of $1 million was reportedly paid to secure their release.

Piracy is rife off the coast of Somalia. Cargo ships and luxury yachts have been targeted by heavily armed pirates, who often hold the crews for ransom.

The number of attacks has risen sharply this year, and the United Nations Security Council approved incursions into Somali waters to halt the trend.

Somalia's weak transitional government, currently engaged in countering a bloody insurgency, is powerless to stop the pirates. Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

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