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The hijacking of the Comoros-flagged tanker Aris 13 was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel off Somalia since 2012.

Abdirizak Mohamed Ahmed, the director of Puntand's anti-piracy agency, confirmed the release of the ship Thursday night and said naval forces had boarded it to escort it to port.

It was not immediately clear who owned the ship or where it was flagged.

Steed said it was United Arab Emirates-owned and Sri Lankan-flagged, but the Middle East-based official said it was Greek-owned and Comoros-flagged with plans to re-flag it to Sri Lanka.

The US Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and oversees anti-piracy efforts in the region, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This would be the first commercial pirate attack off Somalia since 2012, Steed said.

The ship was anchored off the town of Alula, said Salad Nur, a local elder.'The ship is on the coast now and more armed men boarded the ship,' he said by phone.Pictured above, an armed Somali pirate walks along the coastline near Hobyo in 2010The ship had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Monday when it was approached by men in two skiffs and the tanker issued a call for help.The pirates told authorities that the only reason they seized the ship was in protest of the illegal fishing in the area that has threatened livelihoods, not for ransom, Mohamed said.The European Union anti-piracy operation in the region had said the pirates had been holding the crew captive and demanding a ransom.Ahmed said the Puntland naval forces had been dispatched to the area not to free the ship by force but to cut off any supplies to the pirates.'Attacking the ship will not help, but instead it will endanger the lives of the crew,' he said.

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