Somali pirates holding 200 crew hostage
Brussels - Somali pirates are currently holding 200 people hostage as part of their ransom business, keeping them from their families during the festive season, the EU's anti-piracy mission said.
"This humanitarian tragedy is especially pertinent over Christmas, a time when families normally gather to celebrate," EU Navfor said in a statement.
It said 199 men and one woman were being held against their will by pirate gangs in Somalia following the seizure of their ships in the Indian Ocean.
Since the start of the EU Navfor counter-piracy mission in December 2008, 2 317 merchant seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly five months, with 24 crew from the Dubai-owned Iceberg 1 missing for 19 months.
"It is estimated that at least 60 merchant seamen have died as a result of their captivity in the hands of the pirates and many more have suffered torture and abuse," the statement said.
Of the 200 hostages, 49 are being held without the collateral of a ship, which either sunk or was abandoned, "which means that their future is less clear as their value is seen as less than that of a ship".
The EU force said the pirates occasionally hold back some crew after striking a ransom deal to negotiate the release of convicted Somali pirates from the home country of the detained seamen.
It cited the example of four South Koreans and seven Indians from the Gemini and Asphalt Venture who were held back after the release of the ships.