Mannskapet på Iceberg ble befridd fra et umenneskelig fangenskap i Somalia etter nesten tre år. De som befridde dem var en sikkerhetsstyrke til myndighetene i Puntland, området nord i Somalia hvor det er et minimum av sivilisasjon.
De frigitt fangene forteller at NATO-skip og helikoptre gikk tett på det kaprede skipet hvor de ble holdt fanget, men aldri foretok seg noe. NATO var mer opptatt av å følge regler enn befri fanger.
Mannskapet – som alle er fra tredjeverden-land, – seilte på et skip som ble eid av et firma i Emiratene – Azal Shipping and Cargo. Det hadde ikke forsikring mot kapring, og da kaprerne forlangte 10 millioner dollar i løsepenger, ga selskapet mannskapet på båten, bokstavelig talt.
Det er en hjerteskjærende historie Nick Meo forteller i Sunday Telegraph:
By the time the 22 surviving crew of the MV Iceberg-1 were finally rescued last week, most had long given up hope of ever returning home.
The ageing cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates nearly three years ago as it set off on a voyage to Britain with a cargo of electrical goods. And when the ship’s owners refused to pay the $10 million ransom they demanded, the longest pirate hijacking in modern maritime history had started.
As the pirates’ frustration grew, the torture sessions began. Crewmen were whipped with electrical cable, thrown into the sea and shot at, or trussed up and left hanging upside down. The third officer went mad seven months into the ordeal and killed himself. Another who tried to drown himself was fished out and locked in a room alone for five months as punishment.
At one point the pirates, desperate to find a way to make a profit from their prize, even threatened to sell the crew’s kidneys.
«We didn’t think we were ever going to get out of there.» said Jewel Ahiable, 33, the ship’s Ghanian electrical engineer, speaking to The Sunday Telegraph after being freed on December 23. «Now we feel like we have been reborn.»
Befrierne kom ikke fra høyteknologiske NATO-styrker. De foretrakk å overvære løslatelser som ble ordnet via mellommenn, og der store summer ble betalt. NATO ville ikke bli innblandet i befrielsesaksjoner.
In the end, though, their rescue was not carried out by the multi-national piracy fleet, with its warships and hi-tech weaponry, but a ramshackle Somalia anti-piracy force based in northern Puntland region. They killed three of the pirates and laid siege to the ship for two weeks, riddling it with bullets, before the surviving pirates finally surrendered.
«It was terrifying. I lay on the floor shaking, with bullets coming through the windows,» said Mr Ahiable. One of the Pakistani crew was hit in the leg. I am so grateful to the Somali force that rescued us.»
For the Somali authorities, the rescue mission was a remarkable success.
«We had no help from NATO or foreign navies at all,» Said Mohammed Rageh, Puntland’s counter-piracy minister, told The Sunday Telegraph. «We would have liked it. We were in daily communication with them and they constantly flew planes and helicopters over the ship during the operation. They said ‘we don’t have the mandate to come and help you’.» One of his men, trained by a South African private security firm, died in the operation.
«There are other ships still held by pirates and we would like to free them as well,» Mr Rageh said. «But these operations are expensive and difficult to mount. If we had help we could do so much more.»
Mr Ahiable added that the sailors themselves had come to dread occasional «sail-pasts» from the international anti-piracy force, which would come up close to monitor the situation but never intervene.
«When a ship or plane was nearby, we suffered a lot. They took it out on us,» said Mr Ahiable, speaking by telephone from the tough port city of Bossasso where he had been evacuated to await a flight home to his family in Ghana. «We often saw warships and planes. NATO must have had half its navy off the coast of Somalia. Yet none of them gave us any help and none of them ever made contact with us.»
Kaprerne var banditter, lovløse, samfunnets bunnsjikt, som drakk og brukte narkotika, og ofte sloss seg imellom. De hadde helt urealistiske forestillinger om hva de kunne få i løsepenger.
Deres brutalitet mot fangene kjente nesten ingen grenser.
In September 2011 the ship, rusting and decrepit even before it was captured, was driven aground on a remote stretch of shore, the prelude to what was the most troubling incident of the whole long ordeal.
By then negotiations had been abandoned, the pirates were frustrated, angry, and broke. They wanted to capture new vessels and demanded the help of their captives, who they believed had hidden diesel reserves on board and perhaps engine parts they could use. The pirates picked on Dhiraj Tiwari, 27, the ship’s Indian chief officer, who had a reputation for sticking up for the rest of the men.
Mr Ahiable said the crew wept as Mr Tiwari was beaten mercilessly in front of them. Afterwards, the pirates took him away. His fate is not known but his crewmates hope he is still being held somewhere as a hostage.
Det er lite oppmerksomhet rundt gisler som eierne ikke gjør noe for. To danske sjømenn har sittet i langvarig fangenskap av samme årsak. I tillegg stilte disse sjåfolkene enda svakere fordi de var fra land som har liten internasjonal innflytelse og mangler ressurser.
Deres historie vitner om en brutal verden.
At the time of the attack, the Panamanian-flagged ship had a crew of 24, made up of 8 Yemenis, 6 Indians, 4 Ghanaians, 2 Sudanese, 2 Pakistani and 1 Filipino.
As time went on, most became sick from the poor diet, which usually consisted of one meal of dirty rice per day, and drinking water that tasted of petrol. Another crewman lost his eyesight. They were locked together in a hot, dark hold five metres square, with automatic weapons trained on them, and only rarely allowed on deck.
They were permitted to make occasional desperate phone calls to the outside world to describe their plight – a way for pirates to apply pressure in the negotiating process – but for two years and nine months of captivity, nobody answered their pleas for help.
Når man tenker på NATOs makt og kompetanse er det uforståelig at man ikke kan hamle opp med en gjeng banditter.
«The pirates were just cowboys, bush people and criminals from all over Somalia,» said Mr Ahiable. «They drank whisky, took drugs, and often fought each other. They didn’t have a clue about doing business. Instead of negotiating down, they increased the demand to $14 million to cover their expenses.»
Verdens respons på piratvirksomheten har også konsekvenser for hvordan man reagerer på bortføring av hjelpearbeidere, og fremmede operatører i lovløseland: der bander og militser, også islamister og jihadister, opererer er alle tredjeparter fritt vilt. Den vanligste løsningen er å betale seg ut av situasjonen, hvilket er det samme som å fore dragen.