Pirates Force Hostages To Call Kin : Captain's Wife

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New Delhi, Oct 1 (UNI) Somali pirates in the Aden Gulf today forced some of 22 hostages to call home to pressure the owners of the ship they seized 16 days ago for ransom, relatives reported tonight.

''They are asking some hostages at gun-point to speak to their families,'' Seema Goyal, wife of Captain Prabhat Goyal, said hours after she was assured by Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu of ''every effort'' for their release.

Mrs Goyal said she learnt this from her husband who telephoned her late in the afternoon from his ship's bridge and she was trying to convey it to the Shipping officials.

She said she also got telephone calls from some of the families which had heard from sailors aboard the Chemical tanker Stolt Valor, including Om Prakash Shukla and Joginder Malik.

Earlier, Mrs Goyal met Mr Baalu and was assured that ''every effort'' would be made to secure release of the hostages. Also present were Shipping Secretary APVN Sarma and Captain PVK Mohan, chairman of the National Shipping Board.

She has also requested a meeting with United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The delegation of seafarers' relatives and friends also included Captain Joginder Singh Gill, a member of Company of Master Mariners, a body of experienced nautical professionals.

She said ''we were told'' by the representatives of the ship owners and the manning company that delivery of fresh water and medicine to the hostages was being arranged. But Captain Goyal told her nothing had arrived so far, she said.

On Tuesday, the 18 Indian seafarers were reported to be running short of water and rations.

''Bring an end to the ordeal of these innocent seafarers,'' Mrs Goyal urged in a petition to Baalu.

The relatives and friends of the Indian hostages also went on air to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hear them for just ''a few minutes.'' Rashmi Sood, who accompanied Mrs Goyal, said she could not get over a call she attended from a crew member aboard the ship whose wife is in hospital. His words were not coherent but the desperation was most clear, she said.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag and manned by a crew of 22 was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricating oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.

As many as 18 of the 22 seamen, including Captain Goyal, are Indian, one Russian, one Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

The hijackers appeared to have originally demanded million since then pared down to New Delhi, Oct 1 (UNI) Somali pirates in the Aden Gulf today forced some of 22 hostages to call home to pressure the owners of the ship they seized 16 days ago for ransom, relatives reported tonight.

''They are asking some hostages at gun-point to speak to their families,'' Seema Goyal, wife of Captain Prabhat Goyal, said hours after she was assured by Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu of ''every effort'' for their release.

Mrs Goyal said she learnt this from her husband who telephoned her late in the afternoon from his ship's bridge and she was trying to convey it to the Shipping officials.

She said she also got telephone calls from some of the families which had heard from sailors aboard the Chemical tanker Stolt Valor, including Om Prakash Shukla and Joginder Malik.

Earlier, Mrs Goyal met Mr Baalu and was assured that ''every effort'' would be made to secure release of the hostages. Also present were Shipping Secretary APVN Sarma and Captain PVK Mohan, chairman of the National Shipping Board.

She has also requested a meeting with United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The delegation of seafarers' relatives and friends also included Captain Joginder Singh Gill, a member of Company of Master Mariners, a body of experienced nautical professionals.

She said ''we were told'' by the representatives of the ship owners and the manning company that delivery of fresh water and medicine to the hostages was being arranged. But Captain Goyal told her nothing had arrived so far, she said.

On Tuesday, the 18 Indian seafarers were reported to be running short of water and rations.

''Bring an end to the ordeal of these innocent seafarers,'' Mrs Goyal urged in a petition to Baalu.

The relatives and friends of the Indian hostages also went on air to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hear them for just ''a few minutes.'' Rashmi Sood, who accompanied Mrs Goyal, said she could not get over a call she attended from a crew member aboard the ship whose wife is in hospital. His words were not coherent but the desperation was most clear, she said.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag and manned by a crew of 22 was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricating oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.

As many as 18 of the 22 seamen, including Captain Goyal, are Indian, one Russian, one Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

The hijackers appeared to have originally demanded $6 million since then pared down to $2.5 million, Mrs Goyal told a meeting at the Indian Society of International Law.

She said Capt Goyal and crew members have been in touch with her from the ship's bridge, presumably using a satellite phone.

''These 22 sailors are living under the shadow of guns with constant threat to their lives, and look upon the government of India as their last hope.

She said a crew member called her two days ago and ''said they will be out of fresh water in a day or two, and rations, in another 3-4 days.'' Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, the Director General of Shipping, who licenses recruiters of Indian seamen and officers, is also responsible for the welfare of Indian seamen, experts say.

As many as 55 ships have been attacked off the coast of Somalia since January and 11 were still being held for ransom, published accounts indicate.

The International Maritime Bureau has issued an advisory urging ships to stay 250 Nautical Miles away from the Somali coast.

The ship was reportedly in a corridor made ''safe'' by a coalition of US, British and French forces.

An official for the recruiting agent declined to comment on negotiations under way.

UNI MJ AM VP0040 .5 million, Mrs Goyal told a meeting at the Indian Society of International Law.

She said Capt Goyal and crew members have been in touch with her from the ship's bridge, presumably using a satellite phone.

''These 22 sailors are living under the shadow of guns with constant threat to their lives, and look upon the government of India as their last hope.

She said a crew member called her two days ago and ''said they will be out of fresh water in a day or two, and rations, in another 3-4 days.'' Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, the Director General of Shipping, who licenses recruiters of Indian seamen and officers, is also responsible for the welfare of Indian seamen, experts say.

As many as 55 ships have been attacked off the coast of Somalia since January and 11 were still being held for ransom, published accounts indicate.

The International Maritime Bureau has issued an advisory urging ships to stay 250 Nautical Miles away from the Somali coast.

The ship was reportedly in a corridor made ''safe'' by a coalition of US, British and French forces.

An official for the recruiting agent declined to comment on negotiations under way.

UNI MJ AM VP0040

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