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Somalia releases 6 foreigners convicted of smuggling pirates' ransom

Foreigners smuggled $3.6 million into Somalia to pay ransom.

Pirates Indian Ocean Somali 2011 2 14Enlarge
Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean are becoming more aggressive and more deadly. A Somali pirate carries his high-caliber weapon on a beach in the central Somali town of Hobyo on August 20, 2010. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Somalia has reportedly freed six foreigners convicted of smuggling millions of dollars into the country to pay ransoms to pirates who had taken ships and people hostage.

The foreigners -- three Britons, an American and two Kenyans -- had been sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison for smuggling $3.6 million into Somalia, AFP states. They were arrested on May 24.

The country's president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, pardoned the foreigners.

Somali security officials seized the planes that brought the foreigners and money into the country on May 24. Hashi Elmi Nur, a magistrate at a local court, told AFP that a $50,000 fine had been imposed on each plane, and the planes were then released.

"Because of their illegal arrival, the two planes were each fined $50,000. And the $3.6 million in cash has been taken by the government," government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said, as reported by BBC.

Piracy has become an increasingly large problem off the coast of Somalia, a country that lacks a stable, functioning government. The pirates have been receiving millions of dollars in ransom, but this was the first instance in which foreigners paying the ransom were arrested and convicted.

More than $110 million was paid to pirates in ransom last year, according to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon told Congress it intends to send close to $45 million in military aid to Uganda and Burundi to help fight the growing terrorist threat in Somalia, the Associated Press reports.