Somali pirates free RAK Afrikana, 11 Indians safely home

Written by: Biswajeet Panda
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Somalia Pirates
New Delhi, Mar 16: In a major relief to the families of the sailors of the hijacked RAK Afrikana, the Somali pirates have freed 11 Indian sailors and 10 other crew members. TV reports showed that most of the sailors have now reached their respective homes.

MV Rak Afrikana was on April 11, 2010 seized approximately 280 nautical miles west of the Seychelles. It had 23 crew members on board.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, tweeted "11 Indian sailors on ship RAK Afrikana are released by Somali pirates. They have been picked up by Spanish naval ship in vicinity - r safe.

She also wrote, "Afrikana engines were not working. Hence Spanish vessel in vicinity was requested through our Navy and Consulate in Dubai to help...Ship owned by Seychelles co. Flew St. Vincent flag. Of 21 crew members, 11 were Indians. Negotiations on release were delicate & prolonged."

TV reports show the sailors visibly weakened in the captivity and describing the horror tales of the abduction. A sailor was quoted by CNN-IBN as saying that they were served sub-standard food and were always threatened at gun-point.

Meanwhile, Rao also informed that 53 Indian sailors aboard various other ships are still under captivity of the Somali pirates.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the ransom was paid to secure the release of the sailors. If that is what really happened, then it puts the onus on the government to explain their oft-repeated quote, "we are doing everything to free the sailors." Certainly 11 months was a long time to negotiate a ransom, if that is what was supposed to happen ultimately.

Amidst all these, one thing is for sure that the navy, as some reports point out, has had no role in securing the release. The ball is now in the government's court and they owe the country an explanation as to what led to the release of these sailors and why can't the same be done for the other 53 who are still languishing in utterly deplorable conditions.

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