Attempts underway to release Lankans held hostage by Somali Pirates

Saturday, 29 January 2011 00:43 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

COLOMBO, (HNS) – While an international crackdown on Somali pirates continues, the Sri Lankan government through its foreign mission in Africa and the Middle East are in process of working towards the release of nine Sri Lankans who are currently held hostage by the pirates.

Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry sources told Haveeru Daily that they are in the process of negotiating with respective shipping companies that owns the MV Albedo, which had six Sri Lankan crewmembers aboard, and the MV Suez which had one Sri Lankan aboard while it was hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Sri Lankan Mission in Nairobi, Kenya is also making efforts to facilitate the release of two Sri Lankan fishermen who were taken hostage on 30 November 30 in the Indian Ocean, while returning on their Multi-day trawler after their catch.

According to the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry, the pirates have so far not made any demand for the release of the two Sri Lankan fishermen.

The MV Alberdo which is a Malaysian vessel had a total of 29 crew members who were Pakistani, Iranian, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan nationals. The said vessel was hijacked off the African coast by the Somali Pirates on November 26 last year.

Meanwhile, the shipping company which owns the MV Albedo is currently making efforts to negotiate the ransom demanded by the Somali Pirates.

It has now come to light that the shipping company which operates the MV Suez which was hijacked by Somali pirates last August has confirmed to the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry that they have established communication with the hijackers and are negotiating the release of their crew members who are from Egypt, Pakistan, Indian and Sri Lanka.

At a recent United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting, the UN adviser on piracy, Richard Lang, has called for setting up of special tribunals and prisons to prosecute and detain suspected pirates.

He pointed out that nine out of ten pirates are set free due to the lack of a proper judicial function and a prison system.

“It would cost 25 million US dollars over three years to get the new infrastructure in place whereas losses to piracy amounted to 7 billion US dollars annually.

The situation is serious. I would even say it’s worsening,” he told the council.

Last Saturday (January 22), South Korean navy seals conducted a predawn operation in the Indian Ocean to rescue a Sri Lanka bound vessel which had 21 crew members onboard.

In the rescue operation the South Korean navy seals killed eight Somali pirates and eventually managed to rescue the 21 crew member who were onboard the 11,500-ton freighter which was hijacked on 15 January in the Arabian Sea when it was en-route to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates.

The 21 crew members were reported to be South Korean, Indonesian and Burmese nationals.

According to recent naval intelligence reports Somali Pirates are currently holding 29 vessels and around 700 hostages.

Last year, pirates had hijacked 53 ships and kidnapped 1,181 people in 2010, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which is reported to be the highest figures ever recorded by the bureau.