DHAKA: Seven Bangladeshi sailors, held hostage by Somali pirates for almost four years, finally returned home Thursday, saying it was ‚Äúunbelievable‚Äù to be alive and describing their ordeal as ‚Äúlike hell.‚Äù
The sailors, who had been held in dire conditions and suffered beatings, flew into the Bangladeshi capital after the Foreign Ministry said they were freed last week after lengthy negotiations. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs unbelievable that I am still alive and free. I want to see my family,‚Äù Abul Kashem, 46, one of sailors, told reporters at Dhaka airport.
‚ÄúEvery day in captivity was like hell. We were not given proper food. They used to torture us on almost every day for ransom,‚Äù Kashem said.
Although Bangladesh said they were freed, other officials have said they were among 11 sailors mostly from Asia who escaped last week and were taken to safety in Kenya.
The group ‚Äúsneaked out a window‚Äù in their pirate prison to escape their captors, before being rescued by local security forces, a British mediator who helped secure their freedom said last week.
Their boat, the Malaysian-flagged-ship MV Albedo, was hijacked in November 2010 by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. During their captivity, one Indian colleague was shot by the pirates in an argument, and four others from Sri Lanka drowned.
‚ÄúThe sailors are in good health, but they are still shocked and traumatized,‚Äù Khurshed Alam, a Bangladesh foreign ministry official, told AFP.
The government did not pay any ransom for their freedom, which came after months of negotiations involving third parties, Alam said.
Alam credited the London-based Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, an alliance of ship owners, unions, agents and insurers, with securing their release.