Seven Indian sailors kidnapped by Somali pirates more than four years ago have finally been released.
A pirate in the town of Harardhere, the pirate hub where the sailors were held, tells VOA’s Somali service that the men were freed in exchange for a $3 million ransom. The statement could not be verified.
The sailors were handed over to Somali officials on Thursday. The governor of Somalia’s Galgudud region, Hussein Ali Weheliye, said the hostages appeared to be in “bad health” but were able to walk unaided.
The captain of the ship, Bahadur Singh, thanked the government of Somalia and others who helped aid in their release. He said they had a “tough time” while in captivity.
“Today we will rejoin our families, so we are very happy. Four years and one month is not a small time, it is a very big time. We had a very tough time here,” said Singh.
Regional government officials were involved in the release of the sailors from their captivity in the town of Haradheere in central Somalia, officials said.
The last successful hijacking was in May 2012, when Somali pirates seized a Greek-owned oil tanker carrying close to a million barrels of crude oil while in the Arabian Sea.
In January, a merchant ship was boarded by Eritrean forces in the Red Sea, an incident which was initially reported as a pirate attack.
At the height of Somali pirate attacks in 2011, up to a dozen or more merchant ships were being held captive at any one time, often for multi million-dollar ransoms
The sailors were taken hostage in September 2010 when their ship, the MT Asphalt, was hijacked by Somali pirates. The ship was released the following year but pirates held onto the crew, in retaliation for the Indian navy capturing pirates and destroying their boats in waters off Somalia.
In the past four years, piracy in Somali waters has decreased dramatically. Somali pirates are currently holding no ships, although some foreign sailors remain in captivity.
Source: VOA, Reuters.