Cruise lets off passengers to avoid pirate threat

HODEIDA, Yemen (AP) -- For cruise ship passengers in the Gulf of Aden, authorities say it's safer to fly than to sail.

Hundreds of passengers were dropped off in Yemen today to allow them to fly to the other side of the Arabian Peninsula. It's a way for them to avoid the dangerous Gulf of Aden, where pirates have attacked dozens of boats.

The M/S Columbus passengers will rejoin the 490-foot vessel in an Oman port to continue their six-month round-the-world trip, which ends in May.

Pirates have attacked more than 30 vessels and hijacked about a dozen more since late October. They've netted more than $30 million in ransoms along Africa's longest and most lawless coast.

Earlier today, Yemeni officials reported that pirates hijacked two fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden. Twenty-two Yemeni fishermen were aboard the boats, which the pirates steered toward the Somali coast.

Also today, a Philippine official confirms that Somali pirates freed a Greek cargo ship and its 19 crew members, nearly three months after the vessel was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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