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Pirates terrorists

'They are not pirates, but terrorists'

At around 2. 30 pm on May 8, 2010, as we sailed towards the Gulf of Aden, we spotted a skiff speeding towards us. Before we could act, our ship was showered with bullets and grenades. We were going to get a naval escort shortly. But luck didn't seem to be on our side. Before long, six hijackers with guns in their hands and grenades around their waists were on our ship. We felt helpless and numb.

We locked all access doors and tried hiding in the bridge area, but we could be seen through the glass walls. The attackers gestured us to open the door. When our Captain opened the door, nasty blows rained upon him. The pirates couldn't speak English, so we tried hard to read their gestures correctly to avoid any untoward provocation.

We were made to take the ship to Somalia, even as some of us were beaten up. Finally, one of the pirates muttered, "Khauf nahi" (no fear) and signalled us to sit down. We anchored first in Hafun and stayed there for a few hours. Then we sailed to Gara'ad, where around 50 Somalis, looking belligerent and spitting all over the place, came to inspect the ship.

The crew was later restricted to the bridge area. The attackers ransacked our cabins and took away our personal belongings. Some weeks later, a guy named Shabeen Ali Jama came on board. He spoke good English and Italian and introduced himself as a negotiator.

To ward off disease, we were allowed to occupy four different cabins. Senior personnel were isolated. We had to run the generators and keep the ship lights on to keep international navies from suspecting trouble. With food and fuel running out, they started making unreasonable demands, like asking us to keep the system going with only half the fuel or power the generator using benzene and castor oil. When we explained why that wasn't possible, they tortured us.

Our hands and feet were tied. At times, they gagged our mouths with plastic bags, tied one leg or both wrists to a mast and hurled us down. Some of the senior personnel were stripped to their underwear and pushed in the freezing temperatures of the meat room. Sometimes, ice was stuffed in their underwear. Plastic bands or cables were tied to our genitals. If we screamed, they tightened them further. Sometimes, they fired guns close to our ears to force us to cooperate. They wanted to make our ship a mother vessel for pirate attacks. When we refused to help, we were beaten. We could bathe or answer nature's call only with their permission. It was painful and humiliating. The attackers did drugs and smoked heavily.

The younger pirates were especially beastly. The more we writhed in pain, the louder they laughed. I can never forget the wicked face of Noor, who had a silver tooth, or Budiga, who jumped in joy as we were tortured. We dangled between hope and despair through every moment of those eight months. We made freshwater on the ship from seawater and even gave it to the other hijacked ships. Whenever horrific tales of death and cruelty emerged from those ships, we wept.

The ransom money was dropped on December 27, 2010. The pirates spent that night counting the money. We were released on December 28, 2010, at 11 am. We are grateful to our company for securing our release. I wish an international force prosecuted the pirates, nabbed their financiers, and bombed their hubs. They are not pirates, but terrorists.

As told to Harsh Kabra

Reader's opinion (17)

Somesh TodkariJun 11th, 2011 at 16:46 PM

same way we should torture them for 16 maonths instead of 8 months, nobody will dare then...

Sandeep KJun 9th, 2011 at 15:30 PM

How cruel and inhuman. thanks to this journalist for bringing this story out in the open. my best wishes are with mr sandeep dnagwal.

Rajkamal JJun 9th, 2011 at 14:25 PM

As senior engineer on board a vessel,i know how hard it is already on board ship without all these terrorism,I hope and pray that such acts should be stopped even it means one has to go for war against these pirates or actually terrorists.I think this will be the only solution,the sooner the better

Anand KuteshwarJun 8th, 2011 at 21:37 PM

Many of the sailors are happy with the 2 days wages or 5 days wages they get for each of the day they sail thru these pirate infested waters. Those people have no idea what it is to be in the hands of pirates. No amount of salary matters then.

Just dont join any ship that sails thru gulf of Aden.

Manidip MitraJun 8th, 2011 at 14:35 PM

My close relative is a seafearer too. After reading this arcticle my heart has skipped beats several times. The matter is made worse by the fact that our government does not have the intention nor the will to even make a dent.

Vijay SampathJun 8th, 2011 at 13:21 PM

Shameful that the Indian Govt has decided last month to free all pirates out of fear that they will target Indian sailors in captured ships. Indian govt should shoot ten Somali Pirates for every Indian Sailor killed and then see what happens.

Naveen SawhneyJun 8th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

Being a Captain in merchant navy i can fully understand the plight of my fellow brothers at the hands of Pirates. Nobody really cares for Seamen its all about money be it owners or pirates. It is an organised cartel which is supporting this piracy. All seamen worldwide should boycott these areas.

Naveen SawhneyJun 8th, 2011 at 11:08 AM

My name is Capt. Naveen Sawhney and still sailing on ships. I can understand the state of mind of my fellow brothers at sea who suffer such a fate though i have been lucky so far. Nobody really wants to do anything for seafarers. There is PETA for animals welfare we need PETS for seafarers

Thomas MathaiJun 8th, 2011 at 05:40 AM

Being a seaman myself, I am horrified to read this. None of these stories are made known to the sailors by the companies. It's always glossy stories about how humane the pirates are to force the sailors continue sailing in those dangerous waters without revolting.

Paddy SinghJun 8th, 2011 at 12:23 PM

What is beyond belief is the fact that despite continious piracy, nothing is done by ship woners themselves. Why cannot the next ship have a built in armoured retreat and instrument for disabling the ship. Secondly some armed marshals should be part of the crew. Kill the pirates without hesitation.

Sandip BanerjeeJun 8th, 2011 at 00:34 AM

Too Bad, International communities must look up on this issue and make drone strikes on the pirates

Rgardiner9 Jun 7th, 2011 at 22:50 PM

That's horrific. What is this world coming too?

Rajkamal JJun 7th, 2011 at 18:07 PM

As senior engineer on board a vessel,i know how hard it is already on board ship without all these terrorism,I hope and pray that such acts should be stopped even it means one has to go for war against these pirates or actually terrorists.I think this will be the only solution,the sooner the better

Shivkumar Ramesh KumarJun 7th, 2011 at 17:49 PM

Hope Un takes it up strongly instead of concentrating on issues like Libyan etc this money again spent on terror etc so we are financing for terror

Shiva IJun 7th, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Not terrorists but Islaamic terrorists for whom all these ghastly acts of torture are justified by their religion. All pakka haraamis and fit to be nuked to oblivion.

Vikram NanthurJun 7th, 2011 at 11:48 AM

My childhood friend had been hijacked this April and is in somalia, i have tried to get in touch with top guys from the shipping industry and they say nothing can be done by them and only politicians can help as all these pirates are being supported by 4 financiers

Sundaresan RamamoorthyJun 7th, 2011 at 11:32 AM

It is a pity that the ship crews which had to sailing through the gulf of Aden without any interruption these beasts, and there should be an international force to tackle them and if possible necessary sanctions should be imposed on the country Somalia which has failed to check the pirates.

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