Somali pirates free Philippine tanker, 23 crew members

SomaliaManila - Somali pirates freed a Philippine chemical tanker and its 23 Filipino crew members Tuesday after five months in captivity, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The Stolt Strength "is now under the command of Captain Abelardo Pacheco and proceeding to safer waters," the department said in a statement.

"The Philippine government conveys its appreciation to all parties that helped facilitate the release of the vessel and the regaining of freedom for its long-suffering crew and their families," it added.

Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in Somalia

Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in Somalia Nairobi/Mogadishu  - Two foreign aid workers employed by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have been kidnapped by gunmen in Somalia, reports said Sunday.

The African news media network Shabelle. net, quoting witnesses, said the pair were taken on the way to Hudur, the capital of the Bakol region in south-west Somalia.

The BBC's Somali service said the two men, employees of MSF Belgium, were Danish and Belgian.

A bloody insurgency is ongoing in Somalia, where militant Islamist group al-Shabaab is fighting the western-backed government.

Captain of US ship returns home after hostage ordeal

Captain of US ship returns home after hostage ordeal Washington  - The captain of a US-operated ship who was abducted by Somalian pirates for several days returned home to the United States on Friday.

A smiling Richard Phillips was greeted by his family shortly after his plane touched down in Burlington, Vermont, his home state. After spending some moments alone with his wife, son, daughter and mother, Phillips addressed reporters.

"I just want to thank you for your prayers and support," Phillips, 53, said.

NEWS FEATURE: Somali pirates may be doubling as people smugglers By Anne-Beatrice Clasmann, dpa

Somali pirates Aden/Sanaa  - Traffic is busy in the Gulf of Aden these days. The waterway, between the Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa, is used by merchant ships having to pass through the Suez Canal.

It is also infested by Somali pirates - who typically strike in small, highly manoeuvrable speedboats - and patrolled by formidable, anti-piracy warships from many nations.

But hardly anyone takes note of the overloaded little boats of smugglers who, night after night, take Africans fleeing civil strife and poverty across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

Somali pirates free Greek ship

Somali pirates free Greek ship Athens - A Greek freighter seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia four weeks ago has been released, Greece's state-run NET radio reported Wednesday.

The broadcaster quoted coast guard officials as saying the Titan was freed on Wednesday evening along with its crew of 24.

It was not clear whether the Greek owners of the vessel had paid the pirates a ransom.

The release comes days after another Greek ship, the Irene EM, was taken over by pirates off the Somalia coast.

US ship attacked by Somali pirates escapes capture

cargo ship, The Liberty SunWashington/Nairobi - A US-flagged cargo ship, The Liberty Sun, was steaming to the Kenyan port of Mombasa under US Navy escort Wednesday after escaping an attempted hijacking by Somali pirates. "The pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel, which sustained damage," said a statement from New York-based Liberty Maritime Corporation, the owners of the ship.

An email message from a crewman to his mother after the incident, which happened Tuesday, said the crew of the vessel were safe and under escort.