MOGADISHU, Somalia — Four Thai fishermen held captive by Somali pirates for nearly five years, longer than any other hostages seized off the Somali coast, have been released after intensive negotiations, according to Somali and United Nations officials.
The Thais, who were released on Wednesday, were among 24 members of the crew on the FV Prantalay 12, a Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel that was seized in April 2010. Fourteen, all from Myanmar, were released a year later, and six others died of various illnesses, according to a statement from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The pirates used the vessel as a mother ship until it capsized in July 2011, and the remaining hostages were then taken ashore.
The negotiations were conducted by the United Nations agency. It is not clear if a ransom was paid.
“This is the longest period of captivity endured by any hostages of Somali pirates,” the statement said. While the release of the hostages “is indeed good news,” it added, Somali pirates are still holding 26 more hostages. Those hostages were abducted from another fishing vessel, the Oman-flagged FV Naham 3, in March 2012.
Omar Sheikh Ali, an antipiracy director for Galmudug, a regional authority in central Somalia, told reporters on Friday that after the crewmen were retrieved, they were handed over to the authority.
“They called their families by phone and cried and cried and cried,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia, in eastern Africa, has declined in the last few years as a result of antipiracy patrols and the criminalization of piracy-related activities.