Harrowing Ordeal Ends

Sixteen Tanzanians have returned home. Their ordeal saw them kept in one room, fed one meal per day and often harassed by the pirates. They said the pirates shot dead one foreign hostage and forced a Tanzanian to throw the body into the sea.

There were emotional scenes at Terminal One of the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JKIA) as anxious family members, relatives and friends shed tears of joy on setting their eyes on their beloved ones for the first time since being hijacked in the Indian Ocean.“I am grateful to God for protecting and bringing my daughter back home safely. I also thank the government for flying them from Madagascar,” said Ms Magreth Philemon.

The resident of Buguruni Malapa, had a daughter, Rosemary Mang’ati, 23, a second year student pursuing Bachelor of Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), who was in the hijacked group.Mother and daughter hugged each other tightly for several minutes when they emerged from the VIP terminal escorted by senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

They were received by the acting director, Middle East department, Mr Christopher Mvula. Soon after they were led to a private lounge for interrogation by immigration and security officials. Narrating their ordeal, some of the victims said they were all kept in one room on their ship, fed on one meal per day and often harassed by the pirates. At one time these unsuccessfully tried to rape the university student.

They said the pirates shot dead one foreign hostage and forced a Tanzanian to throw the body into the sea. There were a total of 21 passengers and eight crew members (including the deceased) as hostages.A businessman residing at Kigogo Luhanga in Dar es Salaam, Mr John Senzige, 50, said ten Somalis intercepted the ship along the Tanzania coast.

“We took off in Comoro on the evening of October 30, but we were captured the day after when we were approaching Mafia Island,” recalled Mr Senzige.The pirates told them that they were heading to Somalia and would hold the ship until its owner paid a ransom amounting to $15m (more than Sh21 billion).

The ship owner declined paying the ransom, claiming that the ship was seized on the Tanzania coast. As such, he said, the government should carry the burden. Failure to get response from the owner made the pirates decide that the ship should be used in raising the ransom.“They told us that because we are poor and cannot raise the demanded amount, we should help them in hijacking other ships as a way of collecting the ransom,” narrated Mr Senzige

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