One of the 23 sailors aboard a Japanese tanker commandeered by Somali pirates was freed safely but other crew members were still believed held by the hijackers, an official said yesterday.
The sailor -- one of two South Koreans aboard the Golden Nori -- returned home with South Korean officials this week, an official at the Foreign Ministry said on condition of anonymity, because of ministry policy.
The official refused to disclose why the South Korean sailor was released first or any other details, citing safety concerns for the remaining 22 crew.
Negotiations have been under way to free the Japanese chemical tanker. The ship's crew are from the Philippines, South Korea and Myanmar.
The US Navy came to the aid of the Japanese vessel, with the guided missile destroyer USS Porter at one point opening fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to it.
The US military has recently intervened several times to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates. US Navy personnel boarded a North Korean ship to treat crew members who had overpowered their hijackers in a gunbattle that left one dead and several others wounded.
Earlier this week, Somali pirates agreed to leave two boats carrying 24 sailors after holding them for six months.