Somali Pirates Release Hijacked Ship, MV Leila
In February, Somali pirates hijacked the Panama-flagged MV Leila near Oman with its entire cargo of goods and cars and sailed it to the semi-independent area of Puntland, Somalia. However, they have just released the vessel permitting it to continue on its way to Somaliland, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The ship was heading to Somaliland and upon its seizure, pirates insisted on holding the vessel until their comrades (fellow pirates) were released from the region’s jail.
A Somaliland anti-piracy task force official confirmed that the MV Leila has been released after speaking to a representative from the Port of Berbera. Reports claim that the ship was released in Bosasso and is expected to anchor in Berbera – Somaliland’s port city – for the night.
The ship’s agent has also confirmed that the release of the hijacked vessel occurred after a ransom was paid following negotiation discussions with local elders, shipping agents and businessmen. It took a month of talks amongst a 7-person committee, and a down payment of $250,000 in ransom money for the Somalis to release the ship. This information, however, has not yet been confirmed as Somaliland has a policy of not paying ransoms.
In February, Somaliland's parliament implemented legislation that classified piracy as a crime, allowing pirates convicted abroad to be transferred to the enclave. Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, but is still not recognized internationally. They feel that their new laws are proof of the territory's commitment to fight maritime attacks off Somalia's shores. Puntland - the area where the MV Leila was held - is notorious for piracy and has bitter relations with Somaliland.