Somali pirates have released three Syrian hostages after more than two years of captivity, the Somali government has confirmed. The three were the last of 21 surviving crew members to be freed from the ship MV Orna owned by a company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The pirates hijacked the ship 400 nautical miles northeast of Seychelles in December, 2010.
Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said that no ransom was paid for the release of the Syrian nationals, calling on pirates to unconditionally free all ships and hostages they are holding."As government officials we are happy to see the release of our Muslim brothers and it's my desire to thank all those, who helped freeing the hostages," Shirdon added. The Somali prime minister went on to say that he is hopeful the international community will assist his government "in permanently eradicating the piracy menace along the Somalia coast." In early January, three hostages, two Sri Lankan and a Syrian national, were freed from the pirates. Also, earlier in December 2012, Somali forces rescued a total of 22 hostages on board the MV Iceberg 1 vessel in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region. Belonging to a Dubai-based company, the Panama-flagged ship was seized off the Yemeni coast in March 2009 with crewmembers from several nations including Ghana, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, and Yemen. According to a maritime watchdog, piracy in Somalia has fallen to a three-year low as a result of coordinated action by international navies along the Gulf of Aden. Several countries including Iran have dispatched fleets of warships to the Gulf of Aden and North of the Indian Ocean to protect their cargo ships and oil tankers. Iran Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since 2008. AO/SZH