Libyan authorities free Italian oil tug

Libyan authorities have released an Italian high-seas tugboat held in the port of Tripoli for more than a month with 11 crew aboard, including two Indians, the Italian foreign ministry and the ship's owner said on Saturday.

The foreign ministry expressed its "satisfaction over the positive outcome" of the ordeal, while Mario Mattioli of the Naples-based oil industry shipping firm Augusta Offshore said he was "very happy that the crew was freed."

The Asso 22's crew included eight Italians, two Indians and a Ukrainian.

The crew will board an Italian Nato ship on patrol in the area for preliminary medical checks.

The 75-metre tug had arrived in Tripoli last month to evacuate workers from the Libyan state oil company NOC as war clouds gathered over Libya.

Armed men seized the vessel on March 19, shortly before an international coalition including Italy began air strikes against forces loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

There have been intensive diplomatic efforts to get the ship released, with Italy earlier saying the crew were being held as "hostages".

Foreign minister Franco Frattini thanked the crisis unit handling the affair "and all the institutions that followed developments in the situation day by day."

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