New Delhi: Ending their 11-month-long ordeal, 11 Indians captured along with their ship have been freed by Somali Pirates after “prolonged negotiations”.
“11 Indian sailors on ship RAK Africana are released by Somali pirates. They have been picked up by Spanish naval ship in vicinity – r (They are) safe,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Twitter.
Noting that the negotiations for release of the Indians were “delicate” and “prolonged”, she said 53 Indian sailors are still in captivity of the pirates along with hostages from other countries.
“Still 53 Indian sailors in hands of pirates – all seized with other nationalities also from foreign owned ships. No Indian ship seized,” she said referring to the hijacking incidents involving several vessels over last few years.
Rao said the pirates have freed a total of 21 crew members of the MV Rak Africana ship out of which 11 are Indians. The ship is owned by a Seychelles company.
“Ship owned by Seychelles co. Flew St. Vincent flag. Of 21 crew members, 11 were Indians. Negotiations on release were delicate & prolonged,” she said.
Rao said the help of the Spanish ship, which was in the vicinity, was sought through the Indian Navy and Indian consulate in Dubai as the Afrikana engines were not working.
MV Rak Africana is registered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadine.
MV Rak Africana was seized approximately 280 nautical miles west of the Seychelles on April 11, 2010 with 23 crew members on board.
Somali pirates have struck several times in the international waters over the last few years, seizing several ships, six of which had 64 Indians on board before the release of Rak Africana crew members.
India has been talking to various countries in that region seeking their cooperation in fighting the menace but has ruled out hot pursuit.