Somalia frees six foreign ransom couriers

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Somalia has freed six foreigners, including three Britons and an American, convicted of smuggling millions of dollars into the lawless Horn of Africa nation to pay off pirates, officials said.

"The six foreigners and their two planes were released... following a presidential pardon," Hashi Elmi Nur, a magistrate at a local court said Sunday. The money was confiscated.

They had been sentenced earlier this month to between 10 and 15 years in prison for smuggling in $3.6 million (2.5 million euros) in one of the planes.

Nur said a $50,000 fine had been imposed on each of the planes, which were seized by Somali security officials at Mogadishu airport on May 24.

The nationalities of the other two convicted foreigners, who were crew members, have not been revealed.

Since January 1, there have been at least 171 attacks off the coast of Somalia and at the end of May pirates held 26 vessels and more than 600 hostages, France's UN envoy Gerard Araud said recently.

© 2011 AFP

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