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Indians,other crew members of MV Suez may reach home by Jun 20

Islamabad: Six Indians and 16 other crew members of an Egyptian-owned merchant vessel, recently freed by Somali pirates following 10 months in captivity, are expected to reach their home countries by June 20, Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney said on Friday.

The ship MV Suez is currently on its way to Salalah, the capital of the Omani province of Dhofar, and is expected to berth at the port there sometime early tomorrow.

After a brief rest at Salalah, the 22-member crew, including six Indians and four Pakistanis, will travel to Muscat, Burney, who played a key role in negotiations with the pirates to free them, told PTI.

"From Muscat, the crew members will be sent back to their countries by air. We expect all of them to be back home by Monday," he said.

"There is no reason for the families of the crew members to worry. We will ensure that they reach home safe and sound," he added.

Burney dismissed reports that the MV Suez was heading to the Indian coastal state of Gujarat to drop off its Indian crew members.

He said plans to bring the Indian crew members to Pakistan for a goodwill visit before their return home had been dropped due to political sensitivities.

Besides Indians and Pakistanis, the crew includes one Sri Lankan and 11 Egyptian nationals.

They too will be repatriated from Oman by June 20, Burney said.

Burney and others raised over USD 2 million that was paid as ransom to the pirates.

The ship and its crew were freed earlier this week.

Burney also indicated that Pakistan`s ISI and its chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, played a role in efforts to free the vessel and its crew.

MV Suez is currently being escorted by PNS Babar, a Pakistan Navy frigate that is part of a Coalition Task Force engaged in anti-piracy operations.

The Pakistani media reported late last night that the vessel had again been attacked by pirates but a Pakistan Navy spokesman said all such reports were unconfirmed.

Pakistani naval commandos are currently on MV Suez and a naval helicopter is providing close air support.

MV Suez was captured by the pirates in August last year.

The crew spent about 10 months in captivity.

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