11 sailors held by Somali pirates since 2010 flee

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 3:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 6:25am


Eleven sailors, mostly from Asia, held hostage for almost four years by Somali pirates escaped their captors and are safe in Kenya, mediators who helped secure their freedom said.

The sailors, who had been held in dire conditions and suffered beatings and torture, included seven men from Bangladesh, one Indian, one Iranian, and two from Sri Lanka.

John Steed, a former British army colonel who has spent years helping negotiate their release, said the men had "sneaked out a window" to escape their captors.

"It is great news that they are at least free … given what they have been through, they are all in good health," Steed said after arriving safely in Kenya with the men on a special flight from Somalia on Saturday.

After escaping through a window from their pirate prison, the men were rescued by security forces from the northern Somali Galmadug region, Steed said.

Their ship, the Malaysian-flagged container vessel MV Albedo, was captured in November 2010 but sank in rough seas last July. During their captivity, one Indian colleague was shot by the pirates in an argument, and four from Sri Lanka drowned.

Seven other Pakistani crew members were released in 2012 after a businessman paid their ransom, but those remaining could not afford the hefty demands of the pirates.

"The crew members and their families have suffered unimaginable distress," said Nicholas Kay, the United Nations special envoy to Somalia.

"The crew underwent the trauma of piracy, their ship sinking, and then being held ashore in very difficult conditions."

The UN said they had been handed over to its care, and "will be repatriated to their home countries over the coming days".

The sailors, like 38 others from different boats who remain captive, were abandoned by their ship's owner, whose willingness to pay to free them sank along with their boat.

Foreign special forces have launched raids to rescue them, including one in 2012 by US elite commandos.

Those who get left behind come largely from nations without the capabilities or desire to send in troops to rescue impoverished fishermen.