Somali pirates released the crew of a hijacked Danish cargo ship for ransom.
The pirates, who seized the Danica White in June, turned it over on Wednesday to a French warship, where the five crew members were undergoing a medical evaluation, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
"It has been a terrible experience for the hostages, (who) have been held for more than 80 days not knowing what was going on," said Lars Thuesen, head of the Danish Foreign Ministry's consular department. He said the five Danes were in good condition.
Thuesen said a ransom had been paid, but declined to give details. "Regrettably, it was necessary," he said.
The ship had been on its way to the Kenyan port of Mombasa from Dubai when it was seized by Somali pirates on June 1.
Only days after the Danica White was captured, a U.S. ship fired several warning shots across its bow and also destroyed three small boats the pirates had used in their assault and were towing behind the Danish vessel.
The U.S. ship called off its pursuit after the pirates navigated the Danica White into Somalia's territorial waters, where the U.S. does not have jurisdiction.
Ship owner Joergen Folmer of the Danish shipping company H. Folmer & Co., declined to comment on a TV2 News report that, citing Danish security company Protocol, said the pirates had demanded a US$1.5 million (1.1 million EUR) ransom.
The security firm has previously indicated it played a role in the negotiations.
Ulla Lassen, the mother of 18-year-old crew member Kim Lassen, said her son was able to call her after being released.
"'Mom, we're free,' he said. He was so happy," Ulla Lassen told TV2 News channel.
It was not immediately clear where the ship was turned over. Thuesen said the crew would soon be reunited with their families.
"The five crew members will undergo a medical evaluation on the French warship and receive food, after which Danica White will be escorted to a safe port," Thuesen said.
Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues and using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System technology. They target passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot, and use the money to buy weapons.
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