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* Sri Lankan crew of one pirated-ship released
Fri, Mar 19, 2010, 07:35 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 19, Colombo: The Sri Lankan crew of one of the ships captured by the Somali pirates has been released, the government announced.

The Sri Lankan Captain, Chief Engineer, and a crew member of the United Arab Emirates-owned vessel 'MV-Ro Ro Laila' have been released, A media release by the Foreign Ministry said today.

However, their departure has been delayed as the company had not been able to find replacements for the crew in time and when that this process is completed, the crew will be repatriated to Sri Lanka, the Ministry said.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in Kenya and the Missions in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Jeddah are reportedly coordinating the release.

The UAE-owned and Panama-flagged MV Leila was hijacked by Somali pirates last year and is being held at the Somali port of Berbera since September 15, 2009.

Meanwhile, the 13 Sri Lankan crew members aboard the seized Saudi Arabian vessel, 'MV Al Nisr Al Saudi' still have not been released yet.

According to the Foreign Minister Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah was informed that the shipping company had established contacts with the pirates through satellite communication and the pirates have assured the shipping company that they would not harm the Sri Lankan crew members.

Shipping company officials have reportedly spoken to the captain of the vessel and informed the Sri Lankan authorities that all the crew members were on board the vessel and were in good health.

The pirates are demanding US$ 20 million ransom to release the crew and the company that owns the tanker is awaiting the arrival of a professional negotiating team from the UK in order to commence negotiations.

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