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Friday, June 02, 2006

Philippine government announces 20 Filipinos held off Somalia - make that 19

A couple of months ago (and here), there were denials that Filipino sailors had been captured off Somalia. Yesteday, however, the denials turned to confirmation here:
Somali gunmen are holding 20 Filipino seamen hostage aboard an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia since March 29, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday.

The United Nations Field Security Coordination Office in war-torn Somalia had earlier denied the incident and called it a “false report.”

Foreign Affairs Spokesman Gilbert Asuque said the Dubai-based company that owns the oil tanker m/t Lin 1 had been negotiating for the hostages’ release.

The United Arab Emirates-registered ship remained anchored, and captors and captives were surviving on the tanker’s fast diminishing food supplies, he said.

But the ship’s owners assured the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs that the Filipinos were in good condition and safe.

The ship had just left the port of Mogadishu on March 29 when militants armed with AK-47 rifles seized it.
Today comes the report that one of those in "good condition" has apparently died in captivity as reported here:
One of 20 Filipino seamen held hostage in Somalia for nine weeks has died in captivity, his colleague told relatives Friday, as the crewmen's families appealed for government action to secure their release.

The men were seized by Somali pirates after their oil tanker, the United Arab Emirates-registered MT LIN1, offloaded its cargo at a southern Somali port on March 29, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department said.

Spokesman Gilbert Asuque said the department could not immediately confirm the reported death of one of the hostages, but said the government was trying to contact the ship's owners, who have been negotiating with the hostage takers.

The owners were not identified.

One of the captives spoke with a relative in the Philippines by satellite phone, and in portions aired over Radio DZMM and ABS-CBN TV, he said one of the crewmen had died accidentally.

The hostage takers did not want the deceased man identified and the crewman gave no other details.

Wives of the crewmen appealed to the Philippine government for assistance.

Carmen Narciso, wife of chief engineer Perfecto Narciso, said Thursday that the gunmen were feeding their captives only once a day because food was scarce.

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