A group of Nigerian pirates — who took three Indians as hostages — made a ransom call to the family on Saturday demanding 11 million nairas (approximately Rs 22 lakhs) by Monday to release the captives. The three merchant navy employees, who belong to Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, have been held hostage by the Nigerian pirates since last 10-15 days.
The ransom call was made to Vinay Kumar, brother of 37-year-old ship captain Sushil Kumar hailing from Nagrota Surian. Apart from him, Pankaj Kumar from Nagrota Bhagwan and Ajay Kumar from Palampur were the other two hostages. The family has informed Kangra Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar about the call and demand for ransom made by the pirates. The Ministry of External Affairs has also been updated about the call.
“I got the call at around 3 pm Saturday. My brother spoke to us first informing about the demand made by the pirates for their release. Then, one of the kidnappers came on the phone telling us in English to handover the money if we wanted the safety of the three persons,” Vinay Kumar told The Indian Express. According to Vinay, Sushil had last contacted his family on March 12 informing them about the kidnapping.
On Friday, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur wrote to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj asking for her help to ensure the safety of youths in captivity. Former chief minister and Kangra MP Shanta Kumar also wrote to Sushma Swaraj asking her to make serious efforts for the release of the youths and ensure their safe return to their homes. Advising the family not to panic, Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur also phoned the family of Sushil Kumar assuring them that some back channels were active to resolve the crisis.
Vinay said the family was contacted by Sushma Swaraj’s private secretary on Friday and was assured that the government was doing the needful. “The boys will return safe. We are on the job and our ministry in Nigeria is working on it” he was told.
A state government official said they were hopeful that the hostage crisis would end successfully. “The matter was being held as par norms and protocols” the official added.