MOGADISHU, June 22 (Reuters) - Pirates in Somalia said on Monday they had freed the seven crew members of a captured Seychelles research yacht, the "Indian Ocean Explorer".
The Somali gangs, who have been marauding in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for several years, still hold 14 boats, with 203 crew members, according to the International Maritime Bureau's latest figures.
They have seized 31 boats so far this year in 143 attacks, compared to 42 in 111 raids throughout last year.
Pirates seized the oceanographic research cruiser at the end of March near the Seychelles' island of Assumption, the second vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation's flag hijacked this year.
"We have released the Seychelles crew, they flew this morning," pirate Hassan told Reuters from Haradheere port.
Another hijacking was prevented this morning when a Portuguese warship answered a distress call from the Maersk Phoenix, a container ship which was under attack by pirates armed with grenade launchers and explosives. Portuguese marines captured eight pirates but then released them after confiscating their weapons.
It is a joy to be able to thank God for the deliverance of the 7 crewmembers of the Indian Ocean Explorer, and it is also good to be able to thank Him for the rescue of the crew of the Phoenix, saving them from months of captivity. Please continue to pray for those still being held hostage, and for the safety of the ships passing through these dangerous waters.