Eleven sailors held hostage by Somali pirates for more than three years have arrived safely in Kenya, mediators who helped secure their freedom said.

The 11 men - from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran - were crew of the Malaysian-owned cargo vessel MV Albedo, which was hijacked 1,500km off the coast of Somalia in November 2010, while sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya.

Abdi Yusuf Hassan, the interior minister of Somalia's Galmudug region, said on Saturday that the sailors were released with no ransom paid.

However, John Steed, a former British army colonel who has spent years helping negotiate their release, said the men had "sneaked out a window" to escape their captors.

"Given what they have been through, they are all in good health," Steed told the AFP news agency after arriving in
Kenya with the men on a special flight from Somalia.

After escaping through a window from their pirate prison, the men were rescued by security forces from the northern Somali Galmadug region, Steed said.

MV Albedo had a 23-man crew when it was attacked by the pirates.

Seven of the ship's crew were released in 2012 while four others drowned when the ship sank last year.

Media reports have suggested one hostage was killed soon after the vessel was hijacked.

Nick Kay, the UN's envoy to Somalia, said the 11 crew would be sent back to their respective countries in coming days.

Pirate attacks have been launched as far as 3,655km from the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean.

The number of attacks by Somali pirates has fallen over the last two years due to increased naval patrols and the presence of well-armed security teams on ships.

According to an American One Earth Future foundation report, Somali piracy in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden and the northwestern Indian Ocean netted $160m, and cost the world economy some $7bn in 2011.

Source: Agencies