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Pirates free Italian ship after 4 months

  • Story Highlights
  • Italian foreign minister says tug boat Buccaneer no longer held by pirates
  • Tug seized in Gulf of Aden on April 11
  • Vessel's capture came amid a surge in pirate activity in Gulf of Aden
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pirates released an Italian ship four months after they seized it, Italy's foreign minister announced Sunday.

Franco Frattini expressed his "joy at the positive outcome ... relating to the kidnapping of the merchant vessel Buccaneer and for the release" of the crew.

Somali pirates freed the vessel after months of negotiations, the ministry said.

The ministry strongly denied a ransom had been paid, but released no other details about the talks with the pirates.

The Buccaneer has a crew of 16: 10 Italians, 5 Romanians and a Croat, the ministry said. They are expected home in about two days.

The tug was seized in the Gulf of Aden on April 11, Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau told CNN.

The ship's owner had not informed the IMB that the vessel had been freed, he said, adding that owners often wait until a ship is out of danger.

Pirates have been very active in the waters off Somalia over the past few years, seizing vessels ranging from oil tankers to arms ships to private yachts. The hijackers typically seek a ransom for release.

CNN's Hada Messia in Rome, Italy, contributed to this report.

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