Nairobi: Forces of Somalia`s semi-autonomous Puntland region raided a hijacked ship and safely rescued 22 hostages, including five Indians, who had been held captive for nearly three years, authorities said Monday.
The Puntland government said their forces captured the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, which was docked near the Gara`ad coastal village in Mudung region.
"After two years and nine months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care," a statement said.
It wasn`t immediately clear if any pirates were captured or killed during the raid.
The rescued crew members include eight Yemenis, five Indians, two Pakistanis, four Ghanaians, two Sudanese, and a Filipino, Puntland Ports and Anti-piracy minister Saeed Mohamed Rage told The Associated Press. The ship was hijacked March 29, 2010.
Alan Cole, the head of the UN`s anti-piracy program, said the MV Iceberg 1 is one of the longest held by Somali pirates.
Close to 120 seafarers are still held by Somali pirates, though that number is considerably down from the height of the piracy crisis two years ago, when more than 600 hostages were held at once.
Hijackings by Somali pirates have significantly decreased in the last couple of years, because many ships now carry armed guards and there is an international naval armada that carries out onshore raids. In 2010, pirates seized 47 vessels.
So far this year, they`ve taken five, a decrease that could signify that the scourge is ending, though experts say it is too early to declare victory.