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Somali pirates free German-American journalist for $1.6 million

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Negotiators paid a $1.6 million ransom for the release of a German-American journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held for two years and eight months, a commander of pirates who held him said Wednesday.

Michael Scott Moore, 45, was released Tuesday and flown to the capital of Kenya. He holds both German and American citizenship.

Moore's stepfather, Louis Saunders of Redondo Beach, California, said Wednesday that he knew little about the release except that Moore was being given a medical checkup.

Saunders said Moore spoken briefly to his mother and was "feeling great." Saunders said he expected that Moore eventually will return to his residence in Germany.

A special German Foreign Ministry crisis group and German federal police had worked "very closely" with U.S. authorities to win Moore's freedom after he was kidnapped on Jan. 21, 2012, while researching a book on piracy, foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told The Associated Press in Berlin.

"Given the circumstances, he's doing well," Chebli said.

She would not comment on what led to his release or on reports that a ransom had been paid, beyond saying "the German government cannot be blackmailed." U.S. policy prohibits paying ransoms.

The U.S. military in Africa refused to comment on whether the American military was at all involved in the case or if it would be involved in transporting Moore back to the United States.

Moore had freelanced for Germany's Der Spiegel.

"We never gave up hope and are now rejoicing with Michael and his family that this nightmare has finally come to an end," Spiegel Editor-in-Chief Wolfgang Büchner said after Moore was released.

The Somali pirates negotiated with Somali intermediaries acting on behalf of Germany, Bile Hussein, a pirate commander in the coastal town of Hobyo, told AP. He said pirates grew tired of holding Moore and were increasingly concerned the U.S. would attempt to use force to secure the journalist's freedom.

Just four days after Moore was kidnapped in the northern Somali town of Galkayo as he was driving from the airport, U.S. Navy SEALs rescued an American and a Dane in a nighttime raid while killing all nine of their guards. The two had also been kidnapped in Galkayo, on Oct. 25, 2011.

Chebli said Moore was at the German Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday. German officials there denied Moore was present.

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