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Somalia piracy: Ship crew return home after ransom payment

Tuesday May 14, 2024

Somali pirates freed the MV Abdullah after its Bangladeshi owners, KSRM Group, paid a hefty ransom.


Nearly two dozen Bangladeshi cargo ship crew taken hostage by Somali pirates returned home Tuesday to a rapturous welcome from family members after weeks in captivity.

The bulk carrier MV Abdullah was transporting more than 55,000 tonnes of coal from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates when it was seized by dozens of pirates around 550 nautical miles (1,000 kilometres) off the Somali coast in March.

The seizure came during a surge in Somali pirate activity, with international naval forces diverted from the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea to guard against attacks on shipping by Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

"I thought it was the last day of my life," M. Noor Uddin, one of the 23 crew members who arrived in Chittagong on Tuesday aboard another bulk carrier, told AFP.

'Captivity nightmare'

Uddin cried when his two-year-old son embraced him after stepping off the ship.

"When the pirates attacked the ship, I just tried to remember the face of my son and wished that I could hold him for one last time," he added.

Chief engineer A.S.M Saifuzzaman, 46, told AFP that every moment of the crew's 32 days in captivity was a "nightmare".

"When any other ship crossed the route or came close to our ship, the pirates would hold their guns to our heads," he said.

"We never thought this day would ever come."

Hefty ransom

Family members waited for hours at the port to greet their returning relatives, some waving small Bangladeshi flags as the crew disembarked.

Somali pirates freed the MV Abdullah after its Bangladeshi owners, KSRM Group, paid a hefty ransom that was air-dropped over the vessel in sackloads of US dollars.

The ransom amount was not disclosed by the company.

The vessel then continued to its original destination, escorted by two European Union ships.

The hijackers had given the crew a letter of safe passage in Somali promising "the ship would not come under any more attacks by pirates until it reached Dubai port".

The vessel's capture came after the first successful case of Somali piracy since 2017 was recorded in December.

Piracy resurgence

A series of incidents since then has fuelled concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean raids by opportunistic pirates exploiting a security gap after the redeployment of international forces.

Huthi gunmen have launched scores of attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden targeting what they deem to be Israeli-linked vessels in response to Israel's war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Naval forces - including from India, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles - have since freed fishing boats seized by gunmen and thwarted other attempted attacks.

In March, Indian commandos boarded and recaptured the vessel seized in December, the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen, around 260 nautical miles off the Somali coast.

All 17 hostages were rescued and 35 alleged pirates were brought to Mumbai to face prosecution.


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