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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Turkish cargo ship with 24 Indians feared hijacked

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, July 16, 2013
First Published: 17:00 IST(16/7/2013) | Last Updated: 02:38 IST(17/7/2013)

A Turkish cargo ship with 24 Indians aboard is suspected to have been hijacked by pirates near Port Gentil off the coast of Gabon in central Africa.

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The panicked family of MT Cotton's captain on Tuesday said the Turkish owners had lost all contact with the ship. Captain Sishir Wahi is from Alipore in south Kolkata.

"Around 12.30pm, we called up the company officials who said the ship was suspected to have been hijacked by pirates," Wahi's daughter Richa told HT. At least five others from West Bengal are among the Indian crew on MT Cotton.

The company that hired the crew said the Turkish owners informed it on Monday all communication had been lost with the ship.

"We are trying our best to get the details of 24 Indian crew. The Turkish owners told us they are in touch with the authorities in Gabon and doing their best to free the crew," Captain Vaivab Dalvi, crew director of the hiring company, told HT over phone from Mumbai.

Officials suspect the hijackers may be locals, not Somalis. It was not immediately known if a ransom demand had been made.

Captain Wahi left home in Kolkata on July 5 to join the ship's crew.

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"He took charge as captain on July 12. That night he emailed us and said there was some technical problem and he will not be able to email us. Since then we have had no contact with him," Richa, a freelance educationist, said.

Captain Wahi lives in Alipore with his daughter, wife Preeti and 82-year-old mother Shama. His son Siddharth works in London.

Siddharth is trying to communicate with the Turkish owners of the ship to get more information. The family is also trying to get in touch with external affairs ministry.

"We just want everyone including my father to come home safely. My grandmother and mother are unwell ever since she heard the news. We are devastated and do not know what to do," Richa added.

Pirates have repeatedly targeted cargo vessels near African coasts, especially Somalia, over the years. In March 2011, the Indian Navy captured 61 Somali pirates after intercepting them in the Arabian Sea.


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