Hostages Rescued After Three Years in Somali Pirates' Custody

The crew of a ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates nearly three years ago has been released, ending the one of the longest hostage situations to come from the region.

The 22 sailors who were held by Somali pirates were set free after a 2-week long operation that was conducted by maritime police, the government of the region of Puntland said in a statement.

The sailors were working aboard the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 and were from all around the globe including the Philippines, India, Yemen, Sudan, Ghana and Pakistan.

Maritime police explained that they conducted the raid on Dec. 10 near the coastal village of Gara'ad in the region of Mudug, as reported by Reuters.

The pirates have been known to patrol the waters off east Africa and commandeer ships while holding the crew hostage for ransom to fund their operations.

The crew was held for longer than any other hostages under Somali pirate control- the criminals have attacked numerous vessels passing through the region.

"After 2 years and 9 months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care," read the statement from president's office in Puntland.

The ship had started out with a crew of 24, but two crew members died since the ship was seized by Somali pirates on March 29, 2010, approximately 10 miles from the port of Aden, off the coast of Yemen.

The ship's registry revealed that the ship was owned by Azal Shipping, which is based in Dubai and was a rather large ship with a dry dock weight of just around 4,500 tons.

More than 100 hostages that were taken by Somali pirates are still being held captive, despite the number of hijackings actually decreasing.

There have been only seven such incidents since the start of this year, down from 24 in the whole of last year.