Leopard Crew Released by Somali Pirates

January 2011 file photo of the Leopard.
January 2011 file photo of the Leopard.

Somali pirates have released six crewmembers from the Danish-flagged MV Leopard after more than two years in captivity.

The six hostages, two Danes and four Filipinos, have been held since their vessel was attacked January 12, 2011 in the Arabian Sea off Oman. During the attack, pirates were not able to gain control of the vessel but made off with the six hostages.

News of their release was confirmed Wednesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark.

“It has been a prolonged and extremely exhausting hostage affair that has marred the seamen and their relatives,” said Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal. “We do not yet have all details regarding the condition of the seamen but first and foremost we know they are safe and are given the required care.”

The Leopard’s owner, Shipcraft, did not give specifics on the amount of ransom paid but said that it was “considerable millions” and “substantially more” compared to past kidnappings where Danish citizens were involved.

Shipcraft’s Managing Director, Claus Bech, commented: “The kidnapping has been going on for more than two years. We are a very small company and the pirates’ expectations to the ransom have been completely unrealistic.”

Shipcraft has in the past come under fire over failed negotiations with the pirates. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark fought back against an onslaught of claims that it was trying to suppress media coverage of the captives.

Somali pirates still hold 2 vessels and 54 hostages according to EU NAVFOR data.

MV Leopard crew is interviewed in this 2011 clip, about 6 months after their kidnapping: