Ariana: helicopter dropped $2.6 m onto its deck

"We've paid the ransom and we are waiting for the pirates to release the Ariana," Spyros Minas, head of Alloceans shipping, declining to disclose the amount of ransom paid.

Maltese-flagged Ariana and its 24 Ukrainian crew were seized on May 2 north of Madagascar en route to the Middle East from Brazil.

Earlier on Thursday, a pirate source that a helicopter had dropped $2.6 million (1.59 million pounds) onto its deck.

"We have taken a $2.6 million ransom to release the Greek ship," one of the gang, Farah, said by telephone. "We are now dividing the money and will disembark in the afternoon."

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