Pirates release Japanese tanker and crew off Somalia, all crew members safe

Pirates freed a Japanese tanker and its 22 crew members apparently unharmed off the Somali coast Wednesday, a US Navy spokesman said. The chemical tanker Golden Nori, seized off Africa six weeks ago, has been released, Lt. John Gay, a US Navy spokesman told The Associated Press. The release came days after reports the pirates demanded US$1 million in ransom and threatened to kill the crew. "All the pirates are off the ship, and the first indication is that all crew members are unharmed," Gay said, adding that the pirates headed toward the Somali coast. A landing vessel, the USS Whidbey Island, was monitoring them from "a visible distance."