The estimated 22 crew members of the North Korea-flagged vessel were able to fight off the eight gunmen who had seized the vessel late Monday, said Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program, which independently monitors piracy in the region.
The crew were piloting the ship back to the war-battered city's port in Mogadishu, he said. Early reports that the vessel was from South Korea and the crew was much larger were incorrect, he said.
An international watchdog reported this month that pirate attacks worldwide jumped 14 percent in the first nine months of 2007, with the biggest increases in the poorly policed waters of Somalia and Nigeria.
Reported attacks in Somali waters rose to 26, up from eight a year earlier, the London-based International Maritime Bureau said through its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Some of those hijackings have turned deadly.
Somalia has had 16 years of violence and anarchy, and is now led by a government battling to establish authority even in the capital. Its coasts are virtually unpoliced.
Piracy off Somalia increased this year after Ethiopian forces backing Somali government troops ousted an Islamic militia in December, said Mwangura.
During the six months that the Council of Islamic Courts ruled most of southern Somalia, where Somali pirates are based, piracy abated, Mwangura said.
At one point, the Islamic group said it was sending scores of fighters to crack down on pirates there. Islamic fighters even stormed a hijacked, UAE-registered ship and recaptured it after a gunbattle in which pirates - but no crew members - were reportedly wounded.
In May, pirates, complaining their demands had not been met, killed a crew member a month after seizing a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel off Somalia's northeastern coast.
Pirates even targeted vessels on humanitarian missions, such as the MV Rozen which was hijacked in February soon after it had delivered food aid to northeastern Somalia. The ship and its crew were released in April.
France has offered naval vessels to escort ships carrying World Food Program food to Mogadishu beginning in November.
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