PIRACY | Hijacked Algerian seafarers “appeal for urgent help”

From Echorouk (Algeria), 2011.06.24

One of the 17 Algerian sailors held for about six months now by Somali pirates off the Somali coasts, namely Moundhir Abderrahmane, got in touch by phone with his family settled in the western province of Tipaza and heartily appealed to the Algerian authorities to take swift action in order to end their appalling ordeal at the hands of the callous Somali pirates.

He described the situation of the crew on board the hijacked MV Blida bulk carrier as horrendous, stressing that the Algerian seamen were underfed, ill-treated and in a poor health condition owing to the pirates’ heavy-handed and unyielding practices.

The hapless Algerian seafarer urged, on behalf of all his comrades, the Algerian authorities to act without further prevarication and rescue them before it is too late.

He expressed the cherished hope that their much-awaited rescue would happen before the start of the holy month of fasting of Ramadhan, slated for early August, because the Algerian sailors’ patience was wearing thin on account of their dire and unbearable plight, as he sadly put it.

Members of the Algerian sailors’ families have meanwhile staged protracted sit-ins in front of the maritime company “I.B.C”, the ship owner in the district of Hydra in upper Algiers to pressurize the company managers into taking the necessary steps to help liberate their unfortunate sons from the pirates’ clutches. However, this vexed issue seems to be very intricate to sort out as Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz said recently that Algeria would not pay any ransom to the Somali pirates.

Mr Belaiz underlined in a statement to the press that Algeria was the first country to have “called, before the UN general assembly, for the payment of ransom to criminals and kidnappers to become a criminal act”. Paying ransom encourages criminals and finances terrorism, he said.

The MV Blida, a 20,586 tonne Algerian-flagged bulk carrier, was captured on January 1, 2011 by the Somali pirates, around 150 miles south-east of Salalah, in southern Oman.

The vessel had left Salalah port and was headed for Dar-e-Salaam in Tanzania when it was attacked by the pirates.

MV Blida has a crew of 27, including 17 Algerians, as well as Ukrainians and Filipinos and is carrying a cargo of clinker. [It] was registered with MSC(HOA) but had not reported to UKMTO.

There are now 28 vessels and 654 hostages being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia, according to EU NAVFOR.

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