Egypt: 34 Fishermen Freed Months After Somalia Hijacking

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Thirty-four fishermen are free four months after the two Egyptian vessels they were on were hijacked off the coast of Somalia, an Egyptian official said Friday.

The fishermen were released after Egyptian and Yemeni government officials intervened, according to a statement from Egypt's undersecretary for consular affairs, Ahmad Rizk. He offered no further details.

Rizk said no ransom was paid for the 34 men, who will arrive in Yemen later in the day and then be transported to Egypt. Rizk did not address media reports that said the fishermen escaped Thursday after physically overpowering their captors, killing two of them.

A pirate source in the Somali port city of Bosasso told CNN that an Egyptian mediator somehow gave the pirates a beverage that rendered them semi-conscious, allowing the captive fishermen to disarm them and launch the surprise attack.

The source, who spoke to one of the surviving pirates, declined to provide his name for security reasons.

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One pirate jumped into the water to save his life after being attacked by the Egyptians with a machete, the source said. He has been hospitalized in the coastal village of Badhan with serious injuries to his back and arm, the source said. The injured man, the source said, told him that he saw the bodies of two of his pirate friends on one of the boats.

Eleven other pirates were taken to shore by the Egyptians after the attack, he said.

The 16-member crew of the Samara Ahmed and the 18-member crew of the Momtaz 1 were seized in April off Somalia's coast after they strayed out of Egypt's territorial waters without permission.

The hijackers had reportedly asked for millions of dollars in exchange for freeing the two vessels.

The release came after Egypt's Foreign Ministry contacted the owner of the vessels, Rizk said, without elaborating. He also praised Yemen for playing a role in helping to free the fishermen, without offering any details.

Rizk urged other Egyptian fishing vessels to stay within the country's maritime borders to avoid being kidnapped or legally pursued.

The International Maritime Bureau had no information about the incident. IMB spokesman Cyrus Mody said the bureau's Piracy Reporting Center -- which monitors pirate activity off the Somali coast -- is still trying to contact the owners of the two vessels.
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CNN's Mustafa al-Arab, Tricia Escobedo and journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow contributed to this report.

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