Pirates Demand $1m For 5 Kidnapped Indian Seamen
By Iwedi Ojinmah 4 months ago
The Nigerian pirates, who took hostage five Indian seafarers last month, have demanded $1 million ransom to release them. They made a ransom call to one of the victim’s families in Haryana three days ago.
“I first heard it as $1,000 and thought we could manage the amount and get them released. But, one of the pirates who called us repeated his demand as $1 million,” Bharat Deshwal, cousin of Ankit Hooda, one of the kidnapped seamen, told TOI over the phone from RohtakRelated: Bill Gates Urges FGN To Be More Credible To It's Citizens .
Ankit was a seaman on Greek motor tanker ship MT Apecus (above) when the pirates struck on the outer anchorage of Bonny Island of Nigeria on April 19. Captain and six other crew members were taken, hostage. Five of them are from India, including one from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam, which however is yet to be confirmed.
Deshwal said the pirates used a satellite phone to speak to them and that one of them spoke in English. “The pirates have reportedly kept the five seamen at an undisclosed location. We were allowed to speak to four of them over the phone. At least we know that they are with them,” he said, adding that he could not speak to the fifth sailor who could be from Visakhapatnam.
The pirates allowed Ankit to speak to his family and also gave an impression that time was running out. “The pirate told us that neither was the shipowner from Greece trying to contact them nor the Indian embassy on behalf of the families,” Deshwal said. One of the pirates, who spoke demanding that $1 million be given to them, sometime later during the conversation said they were willing to accept half a million dollars. However, they did not give any details on how the transaction could take place.
Deshwal said they were yet to get any intimation from the Indian high commission in Abuja, Nigeria. Ankit’s family lives in Assan village in Jind district. Soon after the call, the family has been desperately trying to get in touch with the government to get Ankit and others released. They also conveyed details of the phone call to the office of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed an interest to meet her personally.
Meanwhile, the high commission has informed Sushma that it was following it up with the Nigerian government to get the seafarers released. “We have reiterated vigorously to the presidency, foreign minister and interior minister. Security forces are deployed while ensuring the safety of hostages in southern Nigeria. Other parties are also in touch. We are hopeful and will follow up,” the high commission tweeted in response to Sushma asking for a report on the situation.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency on May 20 said it was making efforts to get the Indian seamen released.