Somali pirates free 26 Asian hostages after nearly 5 years in captivity
In 2012, Somali piracy cost the global economy between $5.7 and $6.1 billion and at the peak in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats. Photograph: (Getty)
Somali pirates on Saturday freed 26 Asian sailors which were held captive for nearly five years, negotiators said. The mediators said the crew was released after 18 months of negotiations with community, tribal and religious leaders.
The hostages were kept in a small fishing village after they were hijacked off their vessel, the last commercial vessel to be seized at the height of the country's piracy scourge.
The crew of the Naham 3 are the second longest held hostage by Somali pirates.
"We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning," said John Steed, coordinator of the Hostage Support Partners (HSP) who helped negotiate their release. The crew did not reveal if any ransom was paid to free them.
But Steed, who led the mission to save the hostages, said one obstacle still remained before the crew could return to their families. "There is fighting in Galkayo so it is very dangerous at the moment, they are exchanging artillery tonight. We will go in early tomorrow morning if the fighting stops and bring them back to Nairobi for medicals and a clean-up."
Once extracted, the sailors - from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan - will be flown to the Kenyan capital on Saturday.
The sailors were taken into captivity after their Omani-flagged vessel was seized in March 2012 south of the Seychelles. Of the 29 taken hostage, one person died during the hijacking and two more "succumbed to illness" during their captivity.
"The release of the Naham 3 crew represents the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy," Steed said.
A major threat to international shipping, piracy was at its peak in 2011 and 2012. It prompted interventions by the United Nations, European Union and NATO, while commercial vessels hired private armed guards aboard their vessels.
In 2012, Somali piracy cost the global economy between $5.7 and $6.1 billion and at the peak in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats.
(WION with inputs from agencies)