The owners of an oil tanker, whose five Indian crew members were kidnapped in the waters off Nigeria last month, have established contact with the abductors and are negotiating for their release, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
The Indians were reportedly abducted on April 19 when the vessel, the Palau-registered Apecus, was anchored off Lagos in Nigeria. There was no official word on the current status or whereabouts of the kidnapped men.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted she had seen news reports about the abduction of the Indian sailors “by pirates”. She added: “I am asking Indian High Commissioner to take this up at the highest level with Government of Nigeria for their release.”
Swaraj also sought a report on the matter from Abhay Thakur, India’s envoy to Nigeria.
The people cited above said the Indian mission in Abuja was already in touch with the Nigerian government and the owners of the vessel to ensure the release of the five Indians. Given the Indian government’s policy of not engaging with hostage-takers, the negotiations are being handled by the tanker’s owners.
A tweet from the official account of the Indian high commission in Abuja said the mission was in “very close touch with (the) Nigerian Navy and police”. Without giving details, it added: “Concerned parties have made initial contact. Caution is of utmost importance for everyone’s safety.”
Former parliamentarian Baijayant Panda, who has taken up the issue of the five Indians on behalf of the wife of one of the sailors, identified the abducted men as Sudeep Kumar Choudhury, Ankit Hooda, Chirag Jadhav, Putcha Sai Avinash and Moogu Ravi. There was no official word on the identities of the men.
There have been several instances in recent years of Indian sailors being kidnapped on the high seas, especially by Somali pirates. In most of these cases, the hostages were released after the payment of ransom, usually by the vessels’ owners.
May 07, 2019 21:37 IST
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