COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Danes and four Filipinos who were held hostage in Somalia for more than two years after their ship was attacked by pirates were released Tuesday, the Danish government said.
Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal says the six men were safe aboard a Danish navy frigate off Somalia, but gave no further details.
The crewmen were on the Danish cargo ship M/V Leopard when it was attacked on Jan. 12, 2011 off the Somali coast. They were believed to have been held hostage on the mainland.
"For more than two years, ruthless criminals have kept them prisoner," Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. "Today, we are pleased that the six seamen have gotten their freedom back."
She denied that Denmark had paid a ransom.
Defense Minister Nick Haekkerup told reporters that Danish commandoes were sent to Somalia to pick up the hostages and escorted them out to the Danish frigate. It was unclear how they were released but Danish TV2 said the six men were freed by the hostage-takers after they had received a ransom.
Some of the hostages received medical assistance, including Soeren Lyngbjoern, who reportedly had been so ill for weeks that he was unable to stand up.
"I am looking forward to receiving medical assistance because I'm very sick," Lyngbjoern was quoting as telling Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet, which says it spoke with the hostage by telephone after his release.
It was not clear where the hostages were headed but the Danish Foreign Ministry said all six eventually would be reunited with their families. It gave no details.
In September 2011, a Danish sailboat with four adults and three children aboard were freed allegedly after a ransom of $3 million was paid. The ship had been seized by Somali pirates, who held it for seven months.
The longest that Somali pirates have held a ship and crew was after the 2010 abduction of 24 crew members on board the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg. They were held for 1,000 days, according to Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau.
AP Writer Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.