While the abduction of 40 Indians in Iraq and the reported escape of one of them is hogging the limelight, another Indian kidnapped for ransom and rescued in Nigeria went largely unnoticed. The Pune professional was held hostage for five days in Nigeria before he was rescued.
K Swaminathan (53), a commercial manager working in Nigerian town of Calabar, was abducted on Monday night, when he stepped out of office and was rescued by the Nigerian Army on Saturday morning. His abductors had demanded 10 million Nigerian Naira (roughly Rs 37 lakh) for his release.
His son Amit Swaminathan (24) said he got a call from his father at 12.30 am on Tuesday.”It was at 7.20 pm Nigerian Standard Time and my father informed us he was planning to join a party hosted by his office colleague. However, the call was disconnected abruptly,” he said.
At 2.30 am on Tuesday, Amit’s mobile phone received a missed call from an unknown number. When I redialled the number, a slurry voice answered in a language I did not understand. Then my father came on the call and asked me to go to sleep and not worry,” he said.
At 11 am Tuesday, Amit received a call from an unknown number informing him that his father had been kidnapped. “The kidnapper told me they are holding my father hostage and he would be released only if his company paid 10 million Nigerian Naira. I asked the kidnappers to make me talk to my father and my father confirmed he has been kidnapped and held hostage at an undisclosed location,” he said. The kidnappers warned Amit against contacting law enforcers.
Since then, Amit received calls from kidnappers quite a few times.
Sameer Ghag, a family friend, stepped in to help. Ghag, who has been in Africa since 2002, contacted the Indian High Commission in Nigeria as well as his friends in Nigerian armed forces. “Although the kidnappers were threatening to kill Swaminathan, my experience told me they will never do so. From the tone of the kidnappers, I could realise they were just doing it for money,” he said.
It has been just 8 days since Swaminathan had gone to Nigeria, to take up responsibilities of commercial manager. Amit remembered how working abroad had been his father’s dream. “
“He had got a chance to go abroad in 1989 but as he was newly married he was not able to do so. This time, when he got the chance, he took it up immediately,” he said.
Amit who has been in touch with local MP Anil Shirole said the Ministry of External Affairs looked into the matter. Shirole said he has spoken to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj a couple of times and was assured of all help. On Thursday afternoon, Amit got a call from the kidnappers who threatened to shoot his father as the company failed to pay up the ransom. “Since then, the phone was switched off and we were all very worried,” he said.
“By then, Ghag informed us that the kidnappers have been located through cell phone tracking. Nigerian Army launched an offensive and rescued him. Ghag’s hunch was right. The kidnappers turned out to be small-time operators who had done this for fast cash,” he said. Amit and Ghag thanked Shirole and Swaraj, who they said helped the family in their time of need.