Tanker Freed

Somali pirates freed a North Korean chemical tanker and its 28 crew Tuesday after the owners delivered a ransom, the European Union Naval Force said.The MV Theresa VIII was hijacked last November, northwest of the island nation of the Seychelles.

The vessel had not asked for assistance but warships were monitoring the situation, said Cmdr. John Harbour. He could not provide details on the ransom.

Also on Tuesday, the EU Naval Force said it intercepted two pirate groups. The two groups, each consisting of a mothership and two skiffs, were tracked by maritime patrol aircraft after commercial ships reported attempted attacks.

Seventeen pirates in total had been detained, Harbour said. One of the attacks took place nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the Somali coast and the other one was northwest of the Seychelles.

Pirates typically use larger ships to tow their small, fast speedboats out to sea. The motherships also carry extra food, water and fuel, allowing the pirates to extend their range away from the Gulf of Aden, which is heavily patrolled by a coalition of international navies.

Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalias lawless shores. It has not had a functioning government since a socialist dictatorship dissolved into civil war 19 years ago. The current administration is too busy fighting an Islamic insurgency to tackle the well-armed and well-funded pirate bases along its 1,900-mile (3,100-kilometer) long coastline.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau says Somali pirates captured 47 vessels last year and launched 217 attacks. More than 100 crew are still being held.