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Somali Pirates Free Filipino Captives
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Pirates in Somalia have released 20 Filipino seamen kidnapped by them in Marchk, Kenya' maritime authorities confirmed on Monday.

Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program said in a statement that the kidnapped Filipinos were on their way home.

Mwangura said that it was not clear whether any ransom had been paid for the release of the captives who were freed on Saturday.

"It is not yet known if any ransom money have been paid for the release of the Panama flagged oil tanker MT Lin 1 and her crew," he said.

The Somali pirates were initially demanding US$450,000 ransom from the ship owners for its release but the amount was later raised to US$1 million before reducing it again to US$500,000 .

"We are informed that the ship owners are sending a sister ship of the vessel to escort her accompanied by US Naval ships," he added.

The men were seized after their oil tanker, the United Arab Emirates-registered MT Lin 1, unloaded its cargo at a port in southern Somalia on March 29.

According to Mwangura, the owners of the ship, who were not identified, negotiated for the release of the men. No other details were provided.

"The oil tanker is expected to call Port Sharjah in the next three days, Mwangura said.

Piracy in Somalia rose sharply last year, with the number of reported incidents at 42, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot.

(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2006)

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