24 june 2011
Suez sailors meet families, but Indians on board MV Iceberg still hostage
According to a sailor who was on MV Suez, there are 25 people on board the Yemeni vessel MV Iceberg. This includes six Indians. The ship was reportedly taken hostage 18 months ago. The MV Suez sailor also said that two sailors of MV Iceberg have already been killed by the pirates. He added that those killed are not Indians and that negotiations are on between the pirates and the owner.
The rescued Indian sailors of MV Suez include: NK Sharma from Jammu, Sachin Pawase from Maharashtra’s Kalyan district, Infant Biju from Kanyakumari, Prashant Chauhan from Shimla, Satnam Singh from Ambala and Ravinder Gulia from Rohtak.
“We were beaten when they were drunk and they would use anything they could get their hands on to beat us. We were sure they would kill us. There were moments when I wished they would just kill us so that we escape the torture,” said N K Sharma, one of the rescued sailors.
They all made it a point to thank Pakistan for securing their freedom. “It was the Pakistani ship the Babur that responded to us,” they said, adding that the Indian Navy ‘s Godavari warship, sent to escort the Suez after a Pakistani warship got their first, had ignored their SOS-es. The Babur took the Suez crew to Oman; the Pakistani warship Zulfiqar took them from Oman to Karachi on Thursday; and then the Indian government flew them from Pakistan to Dubai, from where they caught a flight to Delhi on Friday morning.
The Suez was attacked by pirates 10 months ago. The 22 crew members included four Pakistanis. Ansar Burney, the Pakistani human rights activist, devoted his time to a painstaking negotiation for their release. With the ship’s Egyptian owners, he talked the pirates down from a 20 million dollar ransom to 2.1 million dollars. Some of the ransom was paid by the Suez owners; the balance was raised by Mr Burney through donations in his country.
After the ransom was paid, the pirates told the Suez crew it was free to head home. But within a few hours, the ship was attacked again. Pakistan sent the PNS Babur to escort the Suez to safer waters. Sailors and their families say the Indian government, on the other hand, ignored cries for help. After criticism, India deputed the INS Godavari to pull up along the Suez. At this point, India claims, aggressive manoeuvres by the Pakistani warship led to it grazing the Godavari. Strong statements were issued by both countries.
As the Suez moved towards the port of Salalah in Oman, it developed serious technical problems, and began sinking. The crew moved to the PNS Babur. At Oman, they were transferred onto the PNS Zulfiqar, which took them to Karachi on Thursday where they received a grand welcome. Diplomats from India, Pakistan and Egypt were there to receive them.