Karachi, Jun 13: Somali pirates today released 22 crew members, including six Indians and four Pakistanis, of a hijacked merchant vessel after ransom was paid to them, leading rights activist Ansar Burney said.
The pirates had taken the crew members, including Egyptians and a Sri Lankan, hostage after capturing the vessel MV Suez last year and demanded USD 2.1 million for their release.
The ship belongs to an Egyptian company. Burney, who negotiated with the pirates and raised money through donations, said in Karachi that all hostages had been freed. He said they would reach their homes in a few days as arrangements are being made for their repatriation.
The freed Pakistani captain of the ship, Mohammad Wasi, told Geo News channel on phone that all the hostages had been freed.
"I am very happy as my release is like a new life for me," he said. The Somali pirates had threatened the hostages on at least four occasions that they would be killed if the ransom was not paid, Wasi said.
The pirates had given several deadlines and extended them as they were told that the money was being arranged. Wasi said 40 to 50 armed pirates would always guard the hostages, who were given only rice and pulses over the past 10 months. "The pirates would give us whatever was left after they ate," he said.