MADRID – The Spanish crew members of a tuna trawler who spent 47 days as hostages of Somali pirates before they were freed for a reported $3.3 million ransom returned home to emotional reunions at their home port Saturday.
At a crowded press conference in the northern Spanish city of Vigo, the captain of the fishing vessel Alakrana said his men endured anxious moments just after they were set free Tuesday because a boat belonging to another group of pirates was waiting in Somali waters as they set sail.
"Our liberation was charged with nerves and fear — at the moment we were about to be freed there was a boat belonging to another group of pirates waiting for us," said Ricardo Blach.
"The pirates were telling us, 'Be very careful, the other group is going to try and capture you,' so I had to inform the navy frigates and helicopters to be alert," Blach said.
Blach said the Spanish navy frigates then escorted the Alakrana day and night until it safely reached port in the Seychelles. The 16 crewmen flew from the Seychelles to an air base in Madrid before embarking on planes bound for Bilbao and Vigo.
The 36-member crew included non-Spanish citizens.
The Spanish government has refused to confirm if a ransom was handed over, but Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has not denied it, simply saying the government "did what it had to do."
Defense Minister Carme Chacon has said that all Spanish fishing boats working the Indian Ocean now have private security guards armed with military equipment, including high velocity rifles, aboard.
Crews and ship owners have asked for troops aboard the fishing boats, but the government says Spanish law forbids military personnel from being deployed on board private property.
Two suspects, Cabdiwell Cabdullahl, also known as Abdu Willy, and Raageggesey Hassan Haj, were caught by Spanish naval forces a day after the trawler's Oct. 2 hijacking and flown to Spain where they await trial on kidnapping and other charges.