Captured crew home at last

May 19, 2009 12:00 am

, SOFIA, May 19 – Seven out of 16 Bulgarian crew members on a British-owned cargo ship captured by Somali pirates in April and freed for ransom a month later arrived home on Tuesday, an AFP photographer reported.

The sailors flew home from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and were welcomed at Sofia’s airport by Bulgaria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev.

The other nine Bulgarian sailors on board the Malaspina Castle, whose crew also included four Filipinos, two Ukrainians, a Russian and an Indian, will also return home after completing the ship’s journey to Singapore, Keremedchiev said.

The sailors meanwhile told journalists Tuesday that they and the rest of the ship’s crew were feeling well.

They said they were not treated badly by the pirates — despite a threat to shoot them if they did not receive the requested ransom for the ship.

"We were captured by 15 men armed with 15 rifles, two grenade dischargers and four pistols. The youngest of the pirates was aged 16 and the oldest 38," the Bulgarian captain of the ship Darin Mateev told Trud newspaper in an interview.

Reports in the press suggested that a two-million-dollar (1.5 million euros) ransom had been paid for the ship’s release.

Keremedchiev refused to confirm the information, saying that the Bulgarian government was not involved in the ransom talks between the British owner of the ship, its Italian operator and the pirates.

The 32,000-tonne bulk carrier, freed on May 9, was captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia on April 6.

Sailors said Monday that the ship’s low speed had made it an extremely easy target.


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