| GEO Pakistan|
| Somali pirates free Pakistan ship|
| Updated at: 1519 PST, Tuesday, January 05, 2010|
MOGADISHU: Somali pirates have freed a Pakistan-flagged vessel and its crew of 29 after using it to hijack a UK-owned car carrier in the Indian Ocean, a maritime watchdog reported.
The Shazaib, alternatively known as Shahbaig, and its crew of 29 Pakistanis were released by the pirates on January 2 some 900 nautical miles north of the Seychelles, Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers Assistance Programme said.
"All 29 crew are well except one who broke his leg," he said.
The injured crew member has received medical attention onboard the FS Surcouf, a French frigate from the European Union's anti-piracy mission Atalanta, said Ecoterra International, an environmental NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region.
The Shazaib, a fishing vessel, was seized on December 6.
On January 2, the pirates used it as a "mother ship" from which to launch their small and faster skiffs and captured the more valuable VC Asian Glory.
The UK-flagged, UK-owned car carrier and its crew of 25 - eight Bulgarians, 10 Ukrainians, five Indians, two Romanians - were en route from Singapore to Saudi Arabia with 2,300 vehicles from Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai.
The latest release brings to at least 13 the number of foreign vessels held by Somalia's sea bandits together with close to 300 seamen.
Undeterred by an armada of foreign naval missions, ransom-hunting pirates launched more than 200 attacks in 2009 and hijacked a total of 68 vessels, mainly in the Indian Ocean.
In recent weeks however, they have carried out two successful attacks in the heavily-patrolled Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest and most strategic maritime routes.