Somali hostage crisis: Govt mulls action

Last Updated: Monday, April 18, 2011 - 15:18

New Delhi: Saving the lives of Indians
held hostage by Somali pirates would be the guiding concern of
the government when it decides on taking appropriate action,
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said Monday.



"Our prime interest is to save the lives of every
Indian sailor. That is the guiding concern for the government
to protect the lives of every Indian held hostage", he told
reporters here.



He was confident that the government "will take the
correct decision and immediate action".



Ravi said the pirates were "using our people as
hostages and trying to bargain with us" for the release of the

"good number of their people in our custody".

He said the Indian Navy had gone into action and the
Ministries of External Affairs and Home were dealing with the
matter.



The Navy has said it would continue its ongoing
operation to prevent pirate attacks and said that the release
of some of the Indians held hostage has no bearing on the fate
of the arrested Somali pirates here.

"We will continue our ongoing anti-pirates operation
to ensure smooth traffic in the sea. No orders have been
issued to reduce patrolling in Indian waters following
reported demand made by the pirates in Somalia calling for
swapping of Indian hostages with arrested pirates," a navy
spokesman said in Mumbai yesterday.



Somalian pirates, who took a multi-million dollar
ransom from MT Asphalt Venture, released eight of the 15
Indian crew members last week after holding them hostage for
over six months.



As per negotiations reportedly held between the
shipping company and the pirates, the latter were supposed to
release all the Indian crew members on the hijacked ship.



But the Somali pirates now want Indian authorities to
release all their colleagues placed under arrest in Mumbai
before freeing the remaining Indians.



The asphalt/bitumen tanker was hijacked by pirates on
its way to South Africa from Kenya, southeast of Dar es Salaam
in Tanzania on September 28, 2010.



Indian warships have been escorting merchant vessels
in the Indian Ocean as part of international anti-piracy
efforts and the Navy and Coast Guard have seized around 120
pirates, mostly Somali nationals, over the past few months.

Last month, the Indian navy captured 61 pirates when
they attacked a naval ship. Pirates currently hold some 30
ships and more than 600 hostages, reports say.



PTI



First Published: Monday, April 18, 2011 - 15:18
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