Freed Somali pirates hostages ‘ate rats’
Group believed to be some of the last sailors under captivity
BBC/ A group of sailors who were held hostage by Somali pirates for nearly five years survived in part by eating rats, one survivor has told the BBC.
Filipino sailor Arnel Balbero said they were also only given small amounts of water and felt like “the walking dead” by the end of their ordeal. The 26 sailors were seized on board their ship in 2012 and were eventually taken to Somalia.
They were freed on Saturday, reportedly after a ransom was paid.
The sailors were from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Balbero was among the crew of the FV Naham 3 when it was captured by Somali pirates south of the Seychelles.
One crew member was killed during the capture, according to non-governmental organisation Oceans Beyond Piracy. A year later, the ship sank and the crew were brought onshore in Somalia. Two sailors subsequently died of illnesses.
Balbero told the BBC the last four and a half years had left him and his compatriots “like walking dead”.
Asked how the pirates treated them, he said: “They give us small amount of water only... We eat rat. Yes, we cook it in the forest ... [We] just eat anything, anything. You feel hungry, you eat.”
Balbero also spoke of their difficulties adjusting to life after their ordeal, saying: “I don’t know what is... outside of this world when this finish, so it’s very hard to start again.”
The group are believed to be some of the last remaining captives held by Somali pirates, after a wave of hijackings in the mid-2000s.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia, usually for ransom, has reduced significantly in recent years, in part because of extensive international military patrols of the most vulnerable areas.
Some of the 26 Asian sailors released after being held captives by Somalia pirates for more than four years become emotional as they arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday/