Somalian pirates yesterday released a Greek-flagged oil tanker and its 28-strong crew following a failed attempt by a rival group of pirates to pocket a huge ransom payment. The Maran Centaurus, under pirate control since it was hijacked off the coast of Somalia on November 29, was being escorted to safety by a vessel belonging to the European Union’s naval force early in the afternoon. The crew of nine Greeks, two Ukrainians, one Romanian and 16 Filipinos were reportedly safe and well. The release of the enormous tanker, laden with 2 million barrels of crude oil destined for the US, was delayed on Sunday after a rival group of pirates traded gunfire with the hijackers in a bid to pocket the 3.8-million-euro ransom. The cash had been dropped onto the deck of the ship by helicopter earlier on Sunday.