The Taiwanese chief engineer of a fishing boat was set free yesterday, along with 25 crew from China, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia, after being held captive in Somalia for more than four years.
The Taiwanese owned, Oman registered fishing vessel Naham 3 was the last commercial ship captured by pirates during Somalia’s pirate scourge. The crew was kidnapped March 2012, but the Taiwan ship owner claimed he had no money to pay the ransom.
Of the 29 original crew, one died during the hijacking, and two died of illness during captivity.
Man on a Mission
John Steed, coordinator of the Hostage Support Partners (HSP) helped negotiate their release. “We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning,” he said yesterday, October 22.
Steed, a retired British army colonel, Britain’s former military attaché to Kenya, and now East Africa region manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy group has made it his mission to save “forgotten hostages.” Steed told AFP the mission to return the crew to their families still held one obstacle: extracting them from the city of Galkayo, where fighting was raging between forces from the rival regional states of Puntland and Galmudug.
“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.”
The crew were in the hands of authorities in Galmudug, in central Somalia, and would be repatriated on a UN humanitarian flight before being sent back to their home countries. Mayor Hirsi Yusuf Barre told Reuters news agency the “crew did not say if ransom was paid”.
The sailors had been held in Dabagala near the town of Harardheere, about 400km northeast of the capital Mogadishu. Harardheere became known as Somalia’s main pirate base at the height of the crisis.
“They have spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families,” said Steed.
He said the crew was malnourished and one of the hostages had a bullet wound in his foot, another had had a stroke and another was suffering from diabetes.