Rescued hostages recount their ordeal

“We thought nobody was coming to check if we were alive,” said the 31-year-old Filipino who was held aboard the Dubai-owned MV Iceberg I along with 23 others.

Rescued hostages of MV Iceberg 1 recount their 32-month pirate ordeal

After almost three years in captivity, Gerald Gonsalves and his crewmates thought the world had forgotten them.

“We thought nobody was coming to check if we were alive,” said the 31-year-old Filipino who was held aboard the Dubai-owned MV Iceberg I along with 23 others. “But I did not lose hope because I believe that if you are alive there is hope. Now we are secure and no more in the hands of the pirates.”

Mr Gonsalves’s freedom was secured on Sunday by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) after a 13-day battle against the Somali pirates who hijacked the ship on March 29, 2010.

Recalling the morning of that fateful day, he said: “I was sleeping after my duty and woke up to the ship’s alarm. I saw the pirates circling the ship and shooting at us. They were raining us with bullets. For about 30 minutes we tried to avoid them. The captain tried manoeuvring the ship but everyone was afraid since they were eight men armed with fully automatic guns.”

For the past 32 months, he said, they had mostly been held aboard the rusty Iceberg. During negotiations, some of the sailors were moved to sites on land in Somalia for several days at a time before being returned to the ship.

Gulbasha Shahzada, 42, a Pakistani fitter, said his rescue was like being born again. “We feel like we have been given a new life. We went through a lot of torture and all the crew were beaten at some point.

“These three years we only met with cruelty and abuse. But finally, thanks to the Puntland Force, we are seeing some helpful and kind people after a long time.”

Mr Shahzada said his family was now eagerly awaiting his return to his home town near Peshawar.

Anxious family members have spoken of their relief.

Click to continue to full article.

Source: written by Preeti Kannan and Ramola Talwar Badam for The National.  

Image: Mohamad Abdirahman, PMPF Director.

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