"We will not release Indian crews even if a ransom is paid"
Somali pirates captured by India in March
Disturbing news is coming out of East Africa once again; Somali pirates have reportedly released a video that says that are now targeting Indian seafarers in order to force India to release suspected Somali pirates held in Indian prisons. Jama Deparani of the Somalia Report says that the pirates are already searching for Indians among the nearly 300 crewmembers being held hostage on various hijacked ships. In addition, they have threatened to hold back Indian crew in future even after ransoms are paid for their release.
Somali pirates had kept back seven Indians of the bitumen carrier 'Asphalt Venture' in April this year; releasing the ship and the rest of the hostages after a $ 3.5 million ransom had been paid. The ship was taken in September last year, and the Indian crew have spent well over a year as hostages already. At the time, a pirate representative had said, "We will keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues”- a clear reference to retaliatory tactics after the Indian Navy's robust actions against pirate mother ships operating close to the Indian west coast. Over a hundred suspected pirates were detained by the Indian Navy in those operations.
It is clear that the targeting of Indian hostages is set to escalate; Somalis held by India have still not been released, and their Somali brethren are trying to find new ways to pressurise the Indian government. One of the pirates holding the Asphalt Venture's Indian crew in Somalia's Harardheere region has confirmed to Somalia Report that his group is holding the seven men. “We released their vessel after we got a ransom, but the Indian case is different from other hostages. We are hunting Indian crews from any hijacked vessel and we won’t release any Indian crews until the Indian government releases our friends in their jails. We will continue to release any hijacked vessel that pays a ransom, but will not release Indian crews even if a ransom is paid.”
“There are a lot of our friends in Indian jails, including two of my sons and my nephew," says pirate Hassan Jama in the video that was reportedly released to local media in Mudug. "None of the Indian hostages will be released until (the) Indian government releases them.”
Somalia Report says that an Indian hostage identified as Bazal Sien (perhaps incorrect spelling) is shown on the video pleading for help. “We have been here for six months. The climate is so hot and pirates are threatening kill us if our government does not release their pirate friends", he reportedly says.
Exact figures of Indians held on ships in Somalia are sadly not clear. What is known is that- apart from the seven Indians from the 'Asphalt Venture', the 'Fairchem Bogey' has 21 Indian crew aboard, the 'Savina Caylyn' has 17, the Iceberg 1' has six and the 'Albedo' has two. That totals to at least 53 Indian nationals who are today at great risk in a war of attrition that they have no control over.