Kidnapped Bangladeshi crew members return home after ransom payment

A dockyard worker hammers a ship at a dockyard on the banks of the Buriganga River in Dhaka on January 9, 2024. — AFP
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Nearly two dozen Bangladeshi cargo ship crew members who were taken hostage by Somali pirates have returned home to a warm reception from their families after weeks of captivity. The MV Abdullah, carrying over 55,000 tonnes of coal from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates, was seized by pirates around 550 nautical miles off the Somali coast in March. This incident occurred amidst a rise in Somali pirate activity, leading to international naval forces being redirected to the Red Sea to guard against attacks by Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

The crew members recalled their terrifying experiences during their 32 days in captivity, with chief engineer A.S.M. Saifuzzaman describing every moment as a “nightmare.” The pirates would threaten them with guns whenever another ship approached. The crew’s release came after the Bangladeshi owners of the MV Abdullah paid a hefty ransom, which was air-dropped in sackloads of US dollars. The vessel was then escorted to its original destination by two European Union ships, following a letter of safe passage from the hijackers promising no further attacks until reaching Dubai port.

Upon arrival at the port in Chittagong, family members waited anxiously to greet their loved ones, some waving Bangladeshi flags. The crew members expressed their relief and gratitude for being safely reunited with their families after a harrowing ordeal. This incident marked the first successful case of Somali piracy since 2017, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by maritime ships navigating through high-risk waters.

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