By Jasmine Venegas
Somali pirates have released 26 hostages after having kept them for nearly five years in captivity.
According to CNN, 29 hostages were taken in March 2012 on a hijacked ship south of the Seychelles. Of the 29, one died during the hijacking and two died from illness while in captivity. The hostages were all men from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The men were taken to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where they were released into freedom and were overwhelmed with happiness. One of the hostages, who requested to remain anonymous, stated, “I am so glad that I am now free, it feels good to be treated like a human again.”
Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry said the men were freed after a ransom was paid by the ship’s owner as well as groups contracted to negotiate with the pirates. According to BBC, Bile Hussein, the pirates’ representative, claimed that the value of that ransom was $1.5 million, but the entire exchange has not been fully disclosed.
Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), an organization that responses to maritime piracy, stated that the handover of the men showed “the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy.”
According to the Guardian, the hostages were malnourished and the pirates were said to have tortured, as well as feed them minimal amounts of food.
In an interview with the Guardian, a Filipino hostage, Antonio Libref stated, “We were treated like animals [and] were forced to eat rats [in order] to survive.”
According to CNN, the men were kept on board the ship for a year and a half before being taken to land where they were forced to fend for themselves.
The 26 men who were freed were among the second-longest hostages held captive by the Somali pirates. In April 2010, the pirates seized four crew members of the FV Prantalay 12 vessel, and were later released in Feb. 2015.
In the past few years, piracy has decreased. However, when it was at its prime, the pirates cost the world industry billions of dollars from damages, along with hundreds of kidnappings.
Libref commented that their release makes him “full of happiness. If you believe in God, hope is always there – we were in the hands of pirates yet there was hope, there was a miracle and we’re back in normality.”