Several Indian sailors taken hostage by Somali pirates have been freed after four years in captivity. Their release followed lengthy negotiations with their captors.
Officials announced on Thursday that seven Indian sailors kidnapped by Somali pirates more than four years ago had been released.
The sailors were flown to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after being freed in the coastal town of Harardhere.
"The seven Indian sailors, among them a captain, were held hostage by pirates near Harardhere during the past four years," area governor Hussein Ali Weheliye Irfo confirmed.
"They have suffered hardships both mentally and physically but they are finally free, thanks to the Somali government and other external actors," he added.
The DPA news agency also quoted the governor as saying the men would be flown out of Mogadishu to India.
Conflicting reports over ransom
Governor Irfo also said he could not "confirm if a ransom was paid to the pirates."
However, the AFP news agency reported that an elder and resident of Harardhere, named as Abdulahi Mohamud, had confirmed a ransom was paid to free the hostages, but the amount had not been disclosed.
"There have been negotiations for so long to mediate the release of the hostages, and we have been told that money was paid as ransom, but I don't know how much was paid," he said.
Somali officials had not specified where or exactly when the Indian sailors were taken hostage, nor did they name the boat they were travelling on.
However, it is reported their freighter was hijacked off Tanzania en route from Kenya to South Africa in September 2010.
The ship was eventually released, along with some of the crew, after six months of initial negotiations.
lw/kms (AFP, dpa)