CAIRO – The crews of two Egyptian fishing vessels that overpowered pirates off the Somali coast have sailed into Red Sea waters on their way home along with eight of their former captors, an Egyptian official said Saturday.
The 34 fishermen, who were held for captive for four months, captured eight of the Somali pirates and were bringing them to Egypt, said Egypt's deputy foreign minister for consular affairs, Ahmed Rizq.
The owner of one of the vessels, Mohammad Nasr, said the crews turned down the Egyptian government's offer to fly them back Friday from Yemen, where they arrived after subduing their captors. Nasr said the fishermen wanted to sail back to demonstrate their courage and pride.
He said the pirates are locked in a room on board the boats and there are plans for them to be tried in Egyptian courts.
Nasr, who has been in telephone contact with his crew throughout the ordeal, said pirates seized the boats four months ago on their way to fish near Yemen.
A pirate who said he escaped Friday's attack told the AP that the crew fought them with machetes, tools and some of the pirates' own guns, killing two of the marauders.
According to a Yemeni businessman who hired the boats, Ahmed Samara and Momtaz 1, the fishermen on both vessels coordinated their attack and some of the pirates even cooperated with them, making it easier for the other gunmen to be overpowered.
"The crew on both boats started their operations at one time. They were coordinating among themselves," said Mohamed Alnahdi, the executive manager of Mashrq Marine Product, which had hired the fishing boats.
He said the efforts were carried out from Bossaso, a Somali town where he spent more than a month trying to negotiate the fishermen's release.
Alnahdi, whose company is based in Yemen, said the ransom talks deadlocked Thursday, with him offering $200,000 but the pirates demanding $1.5 million.
The struggle took place off the coastal town of Las Qorey along the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest waterways.
In April, an American crew fought off Somali pirates until the crew's captain offered himself as a hostage in a bid to save their lives. He was held hostage in a lifeboat for five days and was freed after U.S. Navy snipers killed three of his captors.
Pirate attacks worldwide more than doubled in the first half of 2009 amid a surge in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia, which together accounted for 130 of the cases, according to an international maritime watchdog.
International patrols, including by U.S., European, Chinese, Russian and Indian ships, have failed to halt the pirate attacks.