South Korean sailors freed by Somali pirates after 19 months

On March 30, 2011, a Somali coastguard patrols off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland, where piracy has flourished and turned increasingly violent.</p>

On March 30, 2011, a Somali coastguard patrols off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland, where piracy has flourished and turned increasingly violent.

Four South Korean sailors who were abducted by Somali pirates 19 months ago were released on Saturday, South Korea's Foreign Ministry reported.

The sailors were kidnapped while on the MT Gemini, a tanker operated by the Singapore-based Glory Ship Management, reported the AFP. The tanker, which was carrying 28,000 tones of crude palm oil from Indonesia to Kenya, was hijacked by pirates on April 30, 2011.

Though the 21 non-Korean crew members on board were released along with the vessel seven months later, the four Koreans were kept captive until today.

According to the Business Recorder, the Somali pirates requested the release of five Somali pirates captured by a Korean navy vessel earlier that year in exchange for the Korean soldiers.

South Korea has deployed a navy destroyer with 300 troops in the Gulf of Aden since 2009 to assist with a US-led multinational campaign to reduce risks of piracy by the Somalis, Reuters reported.

The sailors are now on a South Korean navy destroyer, and will return to Seoul by air once health checks and other procedures were completed.

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