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Somali Pirates Release German Ship after Ransom Paid

Somali pirates have released a German-owned ship and its 15-man crew after a receiving a hefty ransom payment.

Pirates approached the Seabourn Spirit, pictured here, off the Somali coast in Nov., 2005. The ship escaped by shifting to high speed and changing course officials said.

Foreign ships are targeted

"The information we have is that the MV Lehmann Timber was released on Tuesday when a ransom of $750,000 (478,000 euros) was paid," Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Program told DPA news agency on Wednesday, July 9.

A spokesman for the Karl Lehmann Shipping Company of the German city of Luebeck said that all 15 crew members of the cargo ship were in good health.

The ship was seized at the end of May along with a Turkish vessel, which was released at the end of June.

The MV Lehmann Timber had been held near the coastal village of Eyl while negotiations continued. Mwangura said that the pirates initially wanted well over $1 million.

Somalia's Radio Garowe quoted the mayor of Eyl as saying that the ransom exchange was made on the high seas and that the pirates and owners had "direct communication."

Authorities in Somali have criticized the practice of paying ransoms, saying that it only encourages more attacks.

UN looks to curb piracy in Somalia

Piracy is rife off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation. Cargo ships and luxury yachts have been targeted by heavily-armed pirates, who then hold the crew ransom.

Pirates are currently demanding $2 million dollars for the release of a German couple seized on June 23 as they sailed through the Gulf of Aden on a trip from Egypt to Thailand.

The highest-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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