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Somali pirates free 26 hostages held since 2012

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-10-25 03:42
Somali pirates free 26 hostages held since 2012

An unidentified sailor (2nd R) hugs a fellow hostage upon their arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after they were released by Somali pirates, Nairobi, Kenya, October 23, 2016.[Photo/IC]

MOGADISHU - Somali pirates on Saturday released 26 people who had been held hostage for nearly five years, an organization involved in mediation efforts said.

An Omani-flagged fishing vessel FV Naham 3 was hijacked south of the Seychelles in March 2012, according to John Steed, a regional coordinator of the organization, Oceans Beyond Piracy.

"Of the original 29-member crew, sadly one died during the hijacking and two more succumbed to illness during their captivity. The remaining 26 crew members spent much of their captivity on land in Somalia," Steed said in a statement.

The hostages are all men and are from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

"They have spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families," said the statement.

The statement added their release represented the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy.

It however said the threat of piracy remains, and urged the shipping industry to continue to follow the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-based Piracy to reduce risks.

China on Sunday confirmed the release of the captives.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the 29 crew members kidnapped included 12 Chinese, of them 10 from the Chinese mainland and two from Taiwan.

Meanwhile, three of the hostages, including one from the Chinese mainland and another from Taiwan, had died, Hua said.

Hua said the 26 men released had arrived in Kenya with UN intervention. Chinese officials had met the Chinese crew members and would accompany them on their trip back home.

Hua said the Chinese government offers its sincere gratitude to all the organizations and people involved in the "rescue operation", and best wishes to the released crew members. It also sends its profound condolences to the families of the three deceased crew members.

A report released by the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber Commerce in July said piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia had fallen to its lowest levels since 1995 with only one incident recorded in the past six months.

The report attributed the fall to operations by foreign warships. Chinese naval fleets have been involved in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia since 2008.

The report, however, said that there has been a surge in kidnappings off West Africa.

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