MOGADISHU, Somalia, Twenty-six hostages taken nearly five years ago by Somali pirates have been freed, officials said.
The release came about after negotiations with the Hostage Support Partners, a mediation organization, CNN reported.
Of the 29 crew members seized along with their boat in 2012, one died during the hijacking and two succumbed to illness during captivity. The hostages were men from Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Cambodia. They were on board the vessel Neham 3, which sailed under an Omani flag, when they were captured.
John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy, did not release specifics on the terms or conditions of the hostage release, or say whether any ransom was paid.
“We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning,” the organization said, in announcing the hostage release. “They are currently in the safe hands of the Galmudug authorities and will be repatriated using a U.N. humanitarian flight shortly and then on to their home countries.”
The hostages are reportedly in fair condition. “They are all malnourished. Four are currently receiving medical treatment by a doctor in Galcayo,” the announcement said.
“They have spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families,” said Steed, the coordinator of the HSP for Oceans Beyond Piracy. “I would like to thank the efforts of our partners, the Galmudug authorities and the local community who made this release possible.”
He said Leslie Edwards of Compass Risk Management who spent the last 18 months negotiating this release, and Holman Fenwick Willan LLP, “should be applauded” for their efforts.
The crew of the Naham 3 is the second longest-held group of hostages by Somali pirates, Steed said. Those held the longest were four hostages taken at sea in April 2010 aboard the FV Prantalay 12 and were not released until February 2015.
Somali pirates have made millions of dollars in ransom hijacking ships. Piracy off the Somali coast, at onetime considered an international nightmare, hurt the economy and caused the cost of living in Somalia to soar. The piracy has plummeted in recent years.
At its peak, the piracy cost the global economy $18 billion a year in increased trade expenses, a United Nations study said in 2013. The piracy issue caused maritime activity to drop and it caused tourism to drop dramatically.
By Yvette C. Hammett