Anxiety over fate of 79 Indians with Somali pirates

New Delhi: Anxiety mounted on Wednesday about the fate of 79 Indian sailors abducted by Somali pirates from an Egyptian ship as the deadline set by the sea brigands for the execution of eight of the hostages expired on Wednesday.

On the other hand, 11 Indians captured along with their ship in a separate incident have been freed by Somali pirates, who had kept them hostage for 11 months, capping "delicate" negotiations.

The concern over the plight and safety of the 79 Indians on board the Egyptian cargo vessel MV Suez, hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on August 2 last year was voiced in the Lok Sabha when the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj raised the issue during Zero Hour.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna assured the House that the government was doing everything possible for their release.

"We are doing all that we can. We are in touch with the ship owners. We are depending upon ship owners, as is done in most cases, to negotiate with the pirates," he said.

Krishna said there was a transitional government in Somalia and "we have taken up the issue with the President of that government and he has assured us all help."

The Minister said he has held talks with the Egyptian Ambassador to India who has promised all assistance for safe and quick release of the hostages. The Indian envoys in Egypt and Dubai were also making efforts in this regard.

Meanwhile, 11 Indian sailors on ship RAK Africana were freed by Somali pirates and picked up by a Spanish naval ship in vicinity "(They are) safe," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Twitter.

Noting that the negotiations for release of the Indians were "delicate" and "prolonged", she said 53 Indian sailors are still in captivity of the pirates along with hostages from other countries.