22 Indian crew return safe after ransom paid to Somali pirates

Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 22:18

Mumbai: After being held in captivity for
more than three months by Somali pirates, 22 Indian crew
members of the Panama-flagged cargo vessel `Al Khaliq`
returned safely here on Thursday.

The Indian crew along with two Burmese were taken hostage
after the vessel was hijacked on October 22 last year, around
180 nautical miles, from Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
"Indian crew members returned after they were freed by
the pirates on payment of a ransom by the vessel operator,"
National Union of Seafarers of India`s General Secretary,
Abdulgani Y Serang, told agency here.

Recounting the three month ordeal, one of the seafarers
who returned along with his colleagues, said it was a
nightmarish experience for them even though their captors did
not harm anyone.

"They did not harm anyone of us. But it was worse than
hell. We were all besieged by gun-toting pirates all the time.
They just wanted the ransom," Amit Wahie, Second Officer of
the vessel, said.

Wahie said that the crew was thankful to the company for
its efforts in securing their release.

The `Al Khaliq` was released on February 9 after the
vessel operator paid the ransom.

Piracy is rife in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden
off the war-torn East African nation of Somalia despite the
presence of naval forces patrolling the waters off Somalia.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, "the
number of piracy attacks world-wide has gone up almost 40 per
cent last year, with gunmen from the failed Horn of Africa
state accounting for more than half the 406 reported
incidents."

"If the situation does not improve, seafarers particularly
from the Asia-Pacific, will find it difficult to sail in the
pirate-infested waters off Somalia," Abdulgani said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 22:18

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