Somalia security forces free 8 Indian sailors from pirates

Huang Panyue

MOGADISHU, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Security forces from Somalia's Galmudug State on Wednesday rescued eight of the 11 Indian crew members who had been kidnapped from a cargo ship and taken ashore by pirates.

District Commissioner of Hobyo town Abdulahi Ahmed Ali confirmed that the sailors were rescued without resistance from the pirates after the security forces overwhelmed them in the central town of Hobyo.

"I can confirm that all eight Indian hostages who were being held by pirates were rescued, we have them and they are safe and in good health.," Ali said.

Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed, deputy commander of the maritime force in Galmudug State, said their forces captured three pirates.

"The security forces overwhelmingly besieged them and the pirates tried to flee, but three of them were captured. All the freed crew are safe and healthy," Ahmed said.

John Steed, regional manager of not-for-profit group Oceans Beyond Piracy, also confirmed the release of the Indian hostages who were believed to be being held between the vicinity of Hobyo and Haradhere in central Somalia.

The Indian vessel Al Kausar carrying wheat and sugar was hijacked while en route from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Bosasso in Somalia.

The ship was released by Somalia security forces on Monday night but some of the 11 crew members were taken ashore. It was not clear whether the kidnapped crew were eight or nine.

The pirating of the Indian dhow on April 1 came after the fuel tanker, Aris 13, was held for four days by armed pirates. Al Kausar was one of three foreign vessels to be hijacked after a five-year lull.

The release of the Indian vessel came after Indian and Chinese navies on Sunday freed a Tuvalu-registered vessel that had been boarded by pirates.

Maritime experts said lack of economic opportunities and the prevalence of illegal fishing are pushing more Somalis to turn to piracy, partly as a form of protest and partly as they see no other options.

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