Stolt Valor Captain, crew members return home

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New Delhi, Nov 25 (UNI) After a 63-day ordeal of being held hostage by Somali pirates, the Captain and six crew members of the cargo vessel M T Stolt Valor, arrived here early today to warm welcome by family and friends.

''It was a nightmarish experience, which has come to an end. We were tortured mentally. Every minute the sword of death hung over heads. But we are glad that in the end, we are back home safe,'' said Capt Prabhat Goyal, speaking to waiting mediapersons at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

He thanked the Government for all its help. ''Today, I am proud to be an Indian. I dont know what else to say,'' mused the emotional Captain.

He was greeted by his wife Seema and other family members at the airport. The crew arrived by a flight from Muscat.

Yesterday, one batch of Indian crew members on board the Japanese ship had reached Mumbai.

Recounting his experience, crew member Virender Malik said, ''It was a hellish experience. We couldn't sleep and there was no food, and even less water. They would take away our Captain, Second Officer and Chief Engineer and threaten to shoot them down if ransom was not paid.'' Jagmohan Acharya, electrical officer of the ship, said it was the Government's responsibility to see that its citizens were safe and thanked the media for informing the countrymen about their plight.

''It was because of media pressure that the Government acted.'' An emotional Nihal Singh, a sailor, said it was a dream come true to be back home.

The ship was hijacked by the Somali pirates on September 15 and the crew was kept hostage for over two months until a ransom of 2.5 million dollars was reportedly paid by the owners of the vessel. The cargo vessel was finally freed on November 16.

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