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Somali pirates release captured oil tanker, hostages: NGO

[NAIROBI] Somali pirates handed over on Thursday an oil tanker and eight Sri Lankan hostages just days after capturing the vessel, the Oceans Beyond Piracy NGO told AFP.

"The Puntland maritime police force freed the ship. They made (the pirates) an offer they couldn't refuse and the pirates have left," said John Steed, the former British army officer who has spent years negotiating the release of piracy hostages in Somalia.

Earlier on Thursday the Puntland coastguard had threatened to use force if the talks to convince the pirates to release the vessel failed.

Mr Steed said the pirates had left the Aris 13 ship, which was on its way to the port city of Bossaso in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, on the northeastern tip of Somalia.

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Armed attackers seized the Aris 13 on Monday as it made its way from Djibouti to Mogadishu, the first hijacking of a large merchant vessel by Somali pirates since 2012.

The tanker was forced to change course and head toward Puntland.