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Captain of Boat Seized by Somali Pirates Says Crew Held for 9 Days


FILE - A Somali government soldier walks on the beach in Eyl, in Somalia's semiautonomous northeastern state of Puntland, March 6, 2017. Somali pirates seized a small boat and kidnapped its Indian crew members, holding them on land for nine days before they were freed by Somali security forces.

The captain of an Indian boat hijacked by Somali pirates told VOA that eight of the crew were held on land for nine days before they were freed by Somali security forces in an operation near the village of Dugulle in the Mudug region on Wednesday.

Captain Salim Osman, who was among those taken to land, said the pirates separated the 10-person crew just three days after hijacking the boat.

Two of the sailors had been found on the boat after security forces took it over during the early hours of Monday.

Osman said he was happy to be free. VOA's Somali service spoke to him while he was riding a vehicle with the mayor of Hobyo, Abdullahi Ahmed Ali.

"Now I feel better," said Osman, who is from the Kutch district in western India's Gujarat state.

Ali said security forces detained four pirates who were holding the crew after moving them from their boat off the coast of Hobyo.

Osman, 31, says the boat, Al Kausar, was traveling from Dubai to Bosaso when the pirates attacked it April 1. Earlier, maritime sources said the boat was headed for Kismayo.

"This date I will never forget it, this was April Fools' Day," he said.

Osman said the pirates asked for money. He also said they talked about the release of suspected Somali pirates being held in Indian jails.

Osman said the pirates did not mistreat or threaten them, but that the main challenge was not getting enough food and drink.

"No person hit me but we have not eaten for three days, two days, no drinking. We have been in the jungle," he said. "Jungle does not have any food, and not any water."

He said the pirates holding them were tired after being chased by security forces for several days.

Osman said this was the first time his boat was attacked by pirates in the 13 years that he has been sailing to Somalia from the United Arab Emirates.

Asked if he will continue sailing to Somalia, he replied, "No; maybe one year I will relax to home and after that I will decide."

He said he has a wife and an 18-month-old daughter who live in Gujarat.

Maritime experts say piracy is reemerging in Somali waters following an increase in illegal fishing, but Somali regional security forces appear to be better prepared this time to face the challenge.

On March 16, pirates also abandoned a Sri Lankan-flagged ship, Aris 13, after Puntland security forces briefly exchanged gunfire with pirates.

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