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Residents near the ship in the semi autonomous region of Puntland reported hearing gunfire. The ships tracking system has reportedly been switched off. "In many cases "not doing their job" means that some of the most vulnerable people on the planet will lose their last lifeline".

The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told during a media conference held in Colombo today that Sri Lankan Ambassador to Ethiopia is engaged in talks with the Somali government in order to release the Sri Lankans ship crew.

S.A. Nicholas, the captain of the oil tanker that was hijacked by the Somali pirates, told Daily Mirror on Thursday evening that their lives were at risk because of the presence of Somalian coast guard boats in the vicinity.

An unnamed former British army officer said: "The Puntland maritime police force freed the ship".

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry has confirmed that eight of its nationals are on board the vessel.

Intervention by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and improved security for the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.

There was no immediate comment from the ship's owners and managers. "Haabo is a bit more hard to get out, and so they may have felt it's a safer anchorage for them, maybe they'll have a better support where they can get additional guards", he said.

"These are fishermen who are infuriated with the illegal fishing off their coasts".

Pirates argued that they are fighting illegal ships and boats which are collecting their natural resources, mainly the fish.

Coastal Somalis, including pirates who quit as global patrols increased and became fisherman, have complained of growing harassment by illegal fishermen and attacks by large foreign trawlers.

Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats have continued to face attacks.

Attacks by Somali pirates raged from 2005.