have released three Sailors
kidnapped in the busy shipping lane between Malaysia and Indonesia, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Monday. Two Japanese and a Filipino sailor
were abducted last week when pirates attacked a Japanese-registered tugboat in Malacca Strait. The rest of the tugboat's crew later arrived safely in Malaysia. ``It's like I'm finally back in the world of the living,'' Shunji Kuroda
, one of the kidnapped Sailors
, said in a phone interview with Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, from his hotel in Thailand. The sailors were released early Monday in the southern Thai province of Satun, and they are ``generally in good health,'' said Japanese Foreign Ministry official Masahiro Takagi. He said Japanese officials planned to take them to Penang, Malaysia, when they get approval by Thai authorities. Thai authorities plucked the three from a small boat in the waters about 12 miles off the coast,
NHK said. Earlier Monday, the boat's Japanese Captain, Nobuo Inoue
, 56, spoke by phone with the shipping company's president and confirmed that he and his two abducted crew members were safely released, Takagi said. The ministry official declined to say whether ransom was paid.
Inoue, Kuroda and the Filipino sailor, Edgardo Sadang, 41, were greeted by Japanese officials and the company president, who traveled from Penang at the news of their release, at their hotel in Satun. Kuroda said the pirates took the three to an island after changing boats more than five times, adding that the attackers ``were very cautious.'' ``The night after we were kidnapped, we took a small boat to an island. We had to jump off the boat before reaching the shore and we waded through water to reach a sandy beach,''
he said. He said he was fine, adding ``I only suffered a cut on my foot when we had to walk through mud in jungles.''
The tugboat was attacked March 14 off Malaysia's Penang island, near the opening of the pirate-infested channel that separates Indonesia's Sumatra island and peninsular Malaysia. ``We regret the pirate attacks and we'll work with the region's governments to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents,'' said Yoshinori Katori, chief of the Consulate division at the Foreign Ministry. Last year, the International Maritime Bureau recorded 37 pirate attacks
in the strait, which is used by 50,000 vessels each year.