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In late September, three months into the siege, the bandits hijacked a second vessel, the Egypt-based Ibn Batuta. A few days later, after the pirates took Mahalingam and his chief engineer ashore for a day to visit the pirate bosses, the pirates gathered their weapons, piled into their speedboats and abandoned both the Semlow and the Ibn Batuta. The WFP says it didn't pay any ransom, but Kudrati told TIME that his shipping company handed over $135,000. "In the end we had to give in to them," he says.
That afternoon, says Mahalingam, a small boat flying a white flag approached. Somali negotiators had sent it to escort the Semlow to a Somali port where it could off-load the rice it was still carrying. Mahalingam radioed the Torgelow, a sister ship that was carrying tea and coffee for Somali traders as well as food and oil for the Semlow. But instead of hearing the captain's voice on the radio, Mahalingam heard a familiar Somali accent. The pirates had their next catch.