Somali pirates release chemical tanker

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Somali pirates have released the chemical tanker Stolt Strength and its 23 crew members seized late last year, a maritime group said today.

Sea gangs have run amok along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, seizing dozens of ships and getting millions of dollars in ransoms despite the presence of foreign navies patrolling the strategic commercial shipping lanes.

The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, which monitors piracy in the region, said the ship and its Filipino crew were en route to India.

It was not known whether a ransom was paid.

The Stolt Strengh was carrying nearly 24,000 tonnes of oil products when gunmen hijacked the tanker on 10 November, 2008.

Hijackings have driven up insurance costs and forced some firms to route cargo around South Africa. Pirates attacked at least 15 vessels in March after only two raids in the January and February.