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The vessel, with 25 crew, is the biggest tanker ever to be hijacked.
Coalition naval forces in Bahrain said it appeared that the pirates on the Sirius Star had received a ransom payment in a container parachuted from a plane.
Reuters later reported that five of the pirates making off with the ransom money had drowned after their boat was hit by high seas.
The audacious seizure of the tanker had drawn fresh attention to the dangerous waters off Somalia's coastline.