Ailing Iranian held by Somali pirates is releasedSeptember 21, 2019 10:18am

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A humanitarian group working to free people taken hostage by Somali pirates in recent years says an Iranian man held for four-and-a-half years has been released and is on his way home.

A statement Saturday by the Hostage Support Partnership says Mohammad Sharif Panahandeh had become increasingly ill and couldn't have survived much longer.

The organization says he was one of four remaining hostages held in Somalia. Their Iranian fishing vessel was captured in March 2015.

The statement says Panahandeh will return to Iran in the coming days after medical tests, adding that the three remaining hostages are being held in "appalling conditions."

Piracy off Somalia has dropped in recent years after a multinational patrolling effort.

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