Four Cambodians were among 26 members of a hostage boat crew released in Somalia on Saturday, according to organizations involved, which described the group as “the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy.”
Their release comes nearly five years after the ship they crewed was hijacked by Somali pirates, according to Hostage Support Partners (HSP), the organization that helped negotiate their release.
“We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning,” said mission coordinator John Steed in a statement published by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), which funds HSP’s work.
“They are currently in the safe hands of the Galmudug authorities and will be repatriated using a U.N. Humanitarian flight shortly and then on to their home countries.”
David Dadge, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said there were four Cambodians among those rescued.
The FV Naham 3, an Omani-flagged fishing vessel, was seized about 100 km south of the Seychelles at the height of the region’s piracy crisis in March 2012, making the crew the second longest-held hostages by Somali pirates, OBP said.
Mr. Steed said the freed men, who also hail from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, were in “reasonable condition considering their ordeal.” There were initially 29 crew members, but one man was reportedly killed during the hijacking and another two died from illness while in captivity.
The Naham 3 was intentionally sunk sometime after mid-2013, and the hostages were brought to the Somali mainland, the OBP said.
“The release of the Naham 3 crew represents the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy,” OBP said.
Mr. Dadge of the UNODC said the crew was due to reach Nairobi last night.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said he knew nothing of the release, while officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached.