A group of Somali pirates has released 26 hostages after holding them captive for over four-and-a-half years. The men were working on a fishing ship when they were attacked near the Seychelles.
The crew members spent most of their captivity on land in Somalia, John Steed of Hostage Support Partners (HSP) said on Saturday in a statement published by US-based Oceans Beyond Piracy.
The group of 26 hostages included people from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, according to the activists. Although 29 people were originally working on the Taiwan-owned Naham 3 fishing ship, one of them was killed in the 2012 attack and two more "succumbed to illness" during their captivity.
Somali pirates held the crew for 1,672 days or approximately four years and seven months, Steed said.
"They are reported to be in reasonable condition, considering their ordeal. They are all malnourished," the mediator said. "Four are currently receiving medical treatment by a doctor in [the Somali city of] Galkayo. They have spent over four-and-a-half years in deplorable conditions away from their families."
Threat moving to Asia
The freed hostages will be "repatriated using a UN humanitarian flight shortly and then on to their home countries," Steed added.
Somali pirate Bile Hussein said that a ransom of $1.5 million (1.38 million euros) was paid for their release, according to the AP news agency. This claim could not be independently verified.
Piracy around Somali shores drew worldwide attention several years ago as a threat to the global shipping industry. In response, ships sailing through the region started hiring armed guards and EU countries increased armed patrols, causing the number of attacks to drop dramatically.
Meanwhile, other regions around the world have experienced a growing threat of piracy. Extremist militias like the Philippine Abu Sayyaf group now specialize in kidnapping foreign citizens for ransom.
dj/cmk (AFP, AP)