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25 February 2024

Longest-held pirate captives released


Taken hostage at sea by Somali pirates on the 18 April 2010, four crewmen of the FV Prantalay 12 vessel were finally released by their captors on 25 February and handed over to the Somali Regional Administration in Galmudug, according to the Vienna-based UN Information Service (UNIS).

"This is the longest period of captivity endured by any hostages taken by Somali pirates," said UNIS in a press release Monday.

The crew, all Thai nationals, are currently being repatriated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Hostage Support Programme.

During their captivity, the hostages were sustained by support, including private medical visits and food, from the UNODC Hostage Support Programme, funded by private donations from Oceans Beyond Piracy, a private foundation, and working in conjunction with Thai Embassy in Nairobi.

Negotiations for the release of the crew were conducted for a private charity with the support of Holman Fenwick Willan, a London Law Firm specialising in this work, and a Kidnap and Ransom negotiator from Compass Risk Management - all working pro bono.

"Today's rescue mission to recover the hostages was conducted by UNODC, funded by the Trust Fund of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. The plane with UNODC officers on board flew into South Galkayo and successfully retrieved the four hostages.

The FV Prantalay 12 was a Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel. After being seized in 2010, it was used by the pirates as a mother ship, before it eventually capsized in July 2011. The remaining crew were then taken ashore," added UNIS.

Besides these four released men, of the original 24 crew members, six succumbed to illness at various stages of captivity, and 14 crew members from Myanmar were released to the Puntland Maritime Police authorities. They were repatriated by the UNODC's Hostage Support Programme in May 2011.

While this is indeed good news, many more hostages remain in the hands of Somali pirates.  UNIS said that a further 26 hostages are currently being held, having been abducted from the FV Naham 3. The UNODC Hostage Support Programme is also supporting these victims in similar ways such as contact, proof of life and occasional medical visits funded by the Oceans Beyond Piracy.

"We are extremely relieved to have obtained the release of these four Thai hostages, but let us not forget the remaining 26 Asian crewman still being held in Somalia. They need to be returned home to their families. We are striving to make that happen," said a UNODC spokesperson. He added "I am hugely grateful to the Galmudug state officials who conducted this mission yesterday. They put their lives at risk to bring these poor crewmen home after nearly five long years".

The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said, "I am grateful to see the longest held hostages released from Somalia, and thank all those involved who made it happen, especially the regional authorities in Galmudug".