The 11 Egyptian sailors of the MV Suez boat, held by armed Somali pirates for 11 months, arrived in Cairo yesterday after a ransom of US$2 million was paid to their captors.
The crew were received by 150 relatives, who brought flowers and T-shirts bearing slogans of the revolution.
The families were at the airport two hours before the arrival of the plane from Dubai, and waited impatiently with high hopes.
A woman said “I waited for my husband Ayman to call from time to time. Calls lasted no longer than three minutes. All I could say in those three minutes was that we're all good. The call would be cut off before he could say anything to make me feel he was ok.”
The families recalled phone conversations with the owner of the hijacked ship and how they tried to persuade him to pay the ransom. They also remembered how passive the government was in addressing the issue.
The father of one of the crew members said, “We negotiated with everyone at the Foreign Ministry to ask them to intervene but to no avail. Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby was much stronger than Ahmed Aboul Gheit and he forced the ship owner to collect the money for the ransom.”
The families recalled how the ship's engines were reported to have stopped and news about its sinking started circulating.
One of the brothers of a crew member said, “We did not know whether the crew drowned or were rescued. We lived in fear until the Foreign Ministry said a boat from the Pakistani military rescued them. One hour later, an official from the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan called us and said the entire crew was at the embassy and I talked to my brother Mohamed…”
As soon as the airport announced the arrival of the plane, trills of joy were heard and the families dashed towards their relatives, jumping over the fences erected by security. Amid tears of joy, each crew member started telling the story of the hijack on 2 August 2010, and the rescue.
Mohamed Saleh, a crew member recalled, “We were gripped by fear. And we were in bad psychological condition due to negligence on the part of Egyptian authorities. Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities showed greater concern because there were four Pakistanis on board the ship."
“Every ten days we moved to a new place off the Somali coast, fearing attacks by nearby warships. On the ship itself, we moved very little and were always threatened with weapons. The food we got from the Somalis was not fit for human consumption but we had no alternative so we ate it anyway.
“Negotiations were stronger after the revolution. The Foreign Ministry forced the ship owner to gather the ransom in coordination with the Pakistanis. The money was gathered and a private English plane hovered over the ship and threw the money down in two batches. Then we were released.”
Translated from the Arabic Edition