28 Indian sailors released by pirates, 9 still in captivity

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Chennai, March 9: India has secured the release of 28 of its sailors on two ships held by Somalian pirates and the freed men will be back in the country soon, Union Shipping Minister GK Vasan said on Saturday.

"I am very happy to announce the release of the Indian seafarers. Due to coordinated actions of the Ministry of Shipping, External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Director-General Shipping and other important agencies, yesterday we could get release of two vessels MV Royal Grace hijacked in March 2012 and MT Smrini hijacked in May 2012," Vasan said.

He said 17 sailors on MV Royal Grace and 11 on board MT Smrini would return home this week

Observing that piracy near coastal Somalia is a cause for concern, he said the government has been taking care to deal with the issue. "Our primary concern is to bring back our sailors home safely."

Vasan pointed out that nine Indian sailors were still being held captive by Somalian pirates and the government would continue its efforts to ensure their "safe passage".

The Minister declined to divulge details how the pirates' demands were met, saying "we are very concerned about the safety of the seafarers and it was done in a discreet way by the Ministry of Shipping, External Affairs, Ministry of Defence and other important agencies."

According to him, around 260 Indian sailors were kidnapped by the Somalian pirates and India was able to secure the release of 236 of them.

IANS

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