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Thursday June 13, 2024

Bangladesh ship crew abducted by Somali pirates return home

Uddin cried when his two-year-old son embraced him after stepping off the ship

By AFP
May 15, 2024
A dockyard worker hammers a ship at a dockyard on the banks of the Buriganga River in Dhaka on January 9, 2024. — AFP
A dockyard worker hammers a ship at a dockyard on the banks of the Buriganga River in Dhaka on January 9, 2024. — AFP

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: Nearly two dozen Bangladeshi cargo ship crew taken hostage by Somali pirates returned home on Tuesday to a rapturous welcome from family members after weeks in captivity.

The bulk carrier MV Abdullah was transporting more than 55,000 tonnes of coal from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates when it was seized by dozens of pirates around 550 nautical miles off the Somali coast in March.

The seizure came during a surge in Somali pirate activity, with international naval forces diverted from the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea to guard against attacks on shipping by Yemen´s Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

“I thought it was the last day of my life,” M Noor Uddin, one of the 23 crew members who arrived in Chittagong on Tuesday aboard another bulk carrier, told AFP.

Uddin cried when his two-year-old son embraced him after stepping off the ship.

“When the pirates attacked the ship, I just tried to remember the face of my son and wished that I could hold him for one last time,” he added.

Chief engineer A.S.M Saifuzzaman, 46, told AFP that every moment of the crew´s 32 days in captivity was a “nightmare”.

“When any other ship crossed the route or came close to our ship, the pirates would hold their guns to our heads,” he said.

“We never thought this day would ever come.”

Family members waited for hours at the port to greet their returning relatives, some waving small Bangladeshi flags as the crew disembarked.

Somali pirates freed the MV Abdullah after its Bangladeshi owners, KSRM Group, paid a hefty ransom that was air-dropped over the vessel in sackloads of US dollars.

The ransom amount was not disclosed by the company.

The vessel then continued to its original destination, escorted by two European Union ships.

The hijackers had given the crew a letter of safe passage in Somali promising “the ship would not come under any more attacks by pirates until it reached Dubai port”.

The vessel´s capture came after the first successful case of Somali piracy since 2017 was recorded in December.