In addition to hijacking the most lucrative maritime cargo, Somalia pirates are now hunting specifically for Indian seafarers in an effort to pressure the Indian government to release Somali pirates being held in Indian jails. To increase the odds, the pirates are searching for Indians among the nearly 300 sailors already being held hostage on various hijacked ships and on land.
Two of the pirates holding holding seven Indian crew members of the MT Asphalt Venture in Harardheere area of Somalia's Mudug region explained the new tactic to Somalia Report.
The MT Asphalt Venture and eight of the 15 crew members were released on April 15th for $3.5 million in ransom, but the pirates kept the seven Indians, according to leader of the group of pirates.
“Yes, we still holding these seven Indian crew. We released their vessel after we got a ransom, but the Indian case is different from other hostages. We are hunting Indian crews from any hijacked vessel and we won't release any Indian crews until the Indian government releases our friends in their jails,” said the pirate who asked to be called Farah.
"We will continue to release any hijacked vessel that pays a ransom, but will not release the Indian crews even if a ransom is paid,” the pirate told Somalia Report.
“There are a lot of our friends in Indian jails, including two of my sons and my nephew. None of the Indian hostages will be released until Indian government releases them,” said Hassan Jama, a pirate from the same group holding the seven Indians, in a video message the pirates released to local media in Mudug region.
Bazal Sien, one of the Indian hostages, begged the Indian government for help.
"We have been here for six months. The climate is so hot and pirates are threatening kill us if our government does not release their pirate friends,“ said Bazal Sien in the video.
India has taken an aggressive stance against pirates this year. The Indian Navy captured 61 Somali pirates from the Vega 5 on March 14th and another 28 pirates on February 6th from the hijacked Prantaly 11 and yet another 14 in June.
In June, the Somali ambassador to India, who says 105 Somali pirates are being held in Indian prisons, requested India to return the pirates to Somalia.
Indian hostages being held by Somali pirates
Pirates are currently holding at least 53 Indian hostages including 46 on hijacked vessels and seven others on land.
MV ICEBERG 1 - 24 crew (6 are Indian)
MV ALBEDO - 23 crew (2 are Indian)
MV SAVINA CAYLYN - 22 crew (17 are Indian)
MT FAIRCHEM BOGEY - 21 crew (21 are Indian)
MT ASPHALT VENTURE (vessel and 8 crew released) - 7 Indians being held in Harardhere