The liberated captain of the MV Albedo, who was held captive by Somali pirates for nearly two years recently shared the story of his harrowing experience.
Jawaid Khan, a Pakistani, recounted his shock and horror at the brutality of the pirates, and how easy it was for them to kill, torture and imprison innocent people. He recalled that he constantly had to talk-down the bloodthirsty outlaws who were suspicious of the whole crew and very quick to kill.
As the captain, Khan felt indebted to his crew to guide them through this difficult time, and in doing so, made him the prime target for the pirates to terrorize. He recalled that at one point, he was lowered into the water as the pirates sprayed bullets all around him as intimidation.
Speaking to journalists from his home in Karachi, Khan explained, “I had to always try to calm the pirates down. To negotiate with pirates is the most difficult because all they want is money. They don’t understand any other language. They have no feeling. They are used to killing and seeing people die. We lived a miserable life.”
The crew was often herded into an empty swimming pool and held there for days without food, water, or access to a bathroom. They were routinely beaten with butts of rifles by the criminals who held them captive, and some were even flayed– pirates took pliers and peeled skin off of the hands of their captives.
Believe it or not, Khan was one of the lucky ones. The rest of the crew, currently totaling 15 sailors, is still being held captive. Khan was only released because his ransom, along with seven other Pakistanis, was paid.
Pakistani citizens across the entire country were able to raise the nearly $1.1 million USD ransom that the pirates were demanding for their eight nationals. Donations were received from families, businessmen and charity groups.
Unfortunately, the rest of the crew is being held for a demanded ransom of nearly $2.9 million USD. The crew left behind is no-doubt still enduring similar torture to what Khan went through.
The leader of the pirates had told the captain that they intended to kill hostages one by one until the ransom was paid. Fortunately, Khan was able to convince him otherwise, by advising him keeping the hostages alive was in his group’s best financial interests.
Unfortunately, they did kill one crew member– a young Indian sailor was executed in order to put pressure on the ship’s owner.
Rescue for the hostages was as a remote possibility as it remains now– because of how bloodthirsty these pirates are, it is clear that they will not hesitate to kill, nor will they go down easily if it comes down to a fire-fight. Khan related to authorities that the pirates had installed several rocket-propelled grenade launchers on the rail of the ship. He also said that they carried shoulder-mounted RPG’s as well as a wide-array of assault weapons.
Khan now plans to offer any help that he can muster to bring back the remaining crew, for which he fears deeply. After recovering from severe malnutrition, post-traumatic stress and numerous physical injuries, Khan will attempt to organize. He looks to governments and other international organizations to work for the release of his crew, who he promised to help as he was freed. As for Khan himself, he has promised his family that he will never set sail again.
This harrowing account is an excellent reminder of how serious the problem of piracy is from an individual human perspective. It is clear that these thugs care little for their captives, treating them as a commodity to be traded, sold and certainly abused. The life of a pirate clearly has such desensitizing effects that these marauders think little of pointless torture– they may even use it to pass the time as they extort money from innocent merchants and ruin lives of everyday seamen.