Hijacked Chinese ship released off Somali coast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Hijacked Chinese ship released off Somali coastBeijing, Dec 28 - A Chinese cargo ship was released off the coast of Somalia on Monday, more than two months after it was hijacked, state media reported.

The De Xin Hai was now under the protection of a Chinese naval fleet, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

A ransom of around 4 million dollars was paid to the pirates, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

"A helicopter dropped the ransom money onto the ship. We have received 4 million dollars," a pirate named Hassan was quoted as saying.

The vessel, which belongs to Qingdao Ocean Shipping Co was carrying about 76,000 tons of coal from South Africa to India when it was hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean Oct 19, off the east coast of Somalia.

After the attack, the Chinese government had increased its anti-piracy force, with three Chinese warships patrolling the area.

The release comes after tense negotiations in which the pirates had threatened to kill the crew if they were attacked by the Chinese warships. (dpa)