Indonesian army kills 4 pirates; 20 hostages freed

AP News
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Posted: May 03, 2011 12:21 PM
Indonesian army kills 4 pirates; 20 hostages freed

Indonesian forces killed four Somali pirates in a gunfight after a ship and 20 Indonesian hostages held nearly two months were freed, the military said Tuesday.

About 35 pirates left the MV Sinar Kudus in groups Sunday after they received a requested ransom, Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said. A special joint military squad made sure no more pirates were still on the ship and then pursued the groups, catching up with and killing four pirates in an exchange of gunfire.

He refused to discuss the ransom, which media reported was between $3 million and $4.5 million.

The Sinar Kudus was seized in the Arabian Sea on March 16. Soon afterward, the pirates used the hijacked ship to attack another cargo ship nearby, but private security repelled them, the EU Naval Force said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades, and piracy has flourished off its coast. International confrontations with pirates have grown more violent, and countries have arrested and taken steps to prosecute suspects.

Two Somalis were sentenced Tuesday in Spain to 439 years in jail each for the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.

The court also said Spanish government-linked bodies paid the ransom, but Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez quickly denied that government paid to secure the release of the ship named the Alakrana.

The tuna fishing boat with 36 crew was seized off Somalia in October 2009 and held for 47 days. A reported $3.3 million ransom was paid. Spain says it does not pay ransom, but in the Alakrana case, the government said the day of the ship's release that it did what it had to do. It did not elaborate.

Spanish commandos captured two men as they sailed away from the boat during the hijacking drama and they were brought to Madrid for trial. The National Court identified them as Cabdiweli Cabdullahi and Raageggesey Hassan Aji.

Jimenez told reporters Tuesday "the government did not pay ransom in the Alakrana case" and insisted this is what officials had said all along.

However, the 50-page court verdict says the trial "had shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not the ship's owner but public organizations linked to the Spanish government which paid for the release of the crew and the ship."

Pirates hold more than two dozen ships and hundreds of crew members.