Multi-million dollar ransom secured release of Indian tanker ship

After having released Indian tanker MT Asphalt Venture on Friday for a multi-million dollar ransom, Somali pirates on Saturday released eight members of the ship's 15-strong crew, intending to swap the remaining seven for pirates imprisoned in India. On Saturday, the crisis management group comprising Ministers from Defence, Home, External Affairs and Shipping ministries held an urgent meeting to take stock of the situation and outline the course of action.

According to sources, a decision is likely to emerge only after the return on Sunday of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the accompanying National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon from their five-day foreign trip.

Unfazed by the development, the Indian Coast Guard asserted that it would persist with its operations to foil piracy.

The Somali pirates took a hefty ransom for releasing the MT Asphalt Venture, which they had captured on September 28, 2010, but went back on their word, releasing only 8 crew members..

The Associated Press quoted one of the pirates that the seven had been held back to protest the capture of over 100 Somali pirates by the Navy.

Owners of the ship said they were in touch with families of those still held captive and had assured them that all steps were being taken to ensure their safe return.

Efforts are on to re-establish contact with the pirates to secure the release of the seven.