WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Twenty-four sailors of different nationalities were freed Sunday, about six months after pirates took over their ship off the coast of Somalia, a U.S. military official told CNN.
The pirates left the Tanzanian-flagged fishing boats after radio communications between the pirates and the U.S. Navy, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
The pirates had taken over the ships in mid-May.
The U.S. Navy gave the pirates directions on how to disembark and return to Somalia without being shot at, the official said. A Navy warship and helicopter escorted the vessels to a rendezvous point at sea, where another Navy ship with a boarding party planned to go onboard the merchant ships and provide medical aid.
Sunday's developments come after a rash of piracy by Somalis in the region. Last week the crew of a North Korean freighter regained control of the ship from pirates, and a Japanese ship was seized in nearby waters, the U.S. Navy said.
In all, three ships remain hijacked in the region. E-mail to a friend