Somali pirates free Indian sailors, row over numbers

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 09, 2013 15:10 hrs

Chennai/New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) All 28 Indian sailors on two ships held by Somalian pirates have been freed and will soon be back in the country, Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan Saturday but official sources in the capital said only 17 sailors had been released from one ship.

Speaking to reporters in Chennai, Vasan said: "Yesterday (Friday) 28 Indian sailors in two ships (MV Royal Grace and MT Smyrni) were freed. They will come back here and joint their families in few days."

He said the matter was handled by the Indian government in very discreet way so that the sailors are secured safely.

The sources in New Delhi, however, said the 17 Indian sailors on board MV Royal Grace, which was taken over by pirates in March 2012, were freed.

"The ship and crew are expected to reach Oman and our embassy will be assisting the Indians and ensure their return back home. We are extremely happy at the release of our nationals on board the MV Royal Grace," said the sources.

The government has been working to ensure the release of Indians in captivity of pirates and had been pursuing the matter at various levels and in different countries, they said.

The sources further said the government will not rest until all Indians were freed from the captivity of pirates including 11 aboard MT Smyrni and said it hopes to share information about their current situation soon.

In addition, the government continues to pursue the case of 7 Indians on board the ship MV Asphalt Venture, said the sources.

Vasan also said the hijacking of Indian ships and holding of Indian sailors as captives by Somalian pirates has come to nil since May 2012.

According to him, around 260 Indian sailors were kidnapped by the Somalian pirates and India was able to secure the release of 236 of them.

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