ROME (AFP) - An Italian merchant ship hijacked by Somali pirates in April in the Arabian Sea near Oman with six Italians and 15 Filipinos on board has been freed, Italian news media reported on Friday. The 225-metre (738-foot) Rosalia DAmato owned by Naples-based shipper Perseveranza had been sailing from Brazil to Iran with a cargo of soybeans and came under fire from its attackers when it was taken on April 21. La Repubblica daily reported that the ship was currently on its way to a safe area and said that a ransom had been paid. Pirates had initially demanded $22 million (16.6 million euros) to free the ship. The negotiations yielded a deal over the past few days. Very few details are available on this operation and the amount of the ransom is unknown, La Repubblica said. The vessel has probably turned on its engines and sailing away from the spot where it was held. To guarantee its full freedom, it needs to sail to a safe area first and be met by one of the naval vessels patrolling the region, it added. A representative of Perseveranza told AFP she could not confirm or deny the reports but the Italian foreign ministry effectively confirmed the vessel was no longer in pirate hands. This is an ongoing operation in a high-risk area and it will only be officially over when the Italian authorities take charge of the crew, the minstry said. The shipowner had said that no crew member was wounded when the vessel was boarded in April. Following the Rosalia DAmatos release, Somali pirates still hold at least 27 large vessels, 19 smaller ones and a total of more than 450 seafarers, according to Ecoterra International, an NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region. Among the ships still hijacked is the Savina Caylyn, a tanker operated by another Naples-based shipowner and hijacked in February with a crew of five Italians and 17 Indians. The Italian government last month signed a protocol with shipowners association Confitarma allowing the presence of military forces or private guards on board merchant vessels. A number of clauses remain to be agreed upon before the measure becomes operational. Other European countries such as Britain, Greece, Spain and France have also made legal arrangements to allow military personnel or private armed guards to board certain vessels.