Panaji: Four Goans are among 16 Indian crew members who have been kidnapped by pirates off the coast of West Africa on December 15, even as the Nigerian and Togolese navies upped their efforts to track the kidnappers and rescue the abductees, the Indian High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, said on Tuesday.
In a letter to the Non Resident Commissioner (Goa), a Goa government agency which looks after the affairs of Goan expats, a senior Indian High Commission official said that the commercial vessel MT Duke was attacked by pirates around 140 nautical miles off Togo on December 15.
“DG Shipping (Government of India) has confirmed that contact has been established between the concerned parties and the Indian nationals are reportedly safe. The Mission will continue to follow up on the issue,” Colonel Sachin Dubey, Defence Advisor, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Cameroon at the Indian High Commission in Abuja, said in his communication to the Goa NRI Commission.
According to Goa NRI Commissioner Narendra Sawaikar, the Commission had written to the Indian High Commission in Abuja after the parents of the four kidnapped sailors contacted him for assistance. “We immediately got in touch with the Indian High Commission for assistance,” Sawaikar told IANS on Tuesday.
The Indian Mission is proactively taking up the matter with the Nigerian government.
“Once information was received, while the incident took place off Lome, in Togo, the Mission proactively took up the matter vigorously with all concerned Nigerian authorities, in case the hostages were brought to Nigeria. The permanent secretary to the Nigeria Defence Minster, responded that all naval commands have been alerted to the situation,” Dubey said.
While the MT Duke was located and brought ashore by the Togolese navy to the port of Lome, 16 crew members, which includes the four Goans, were kidnapped by the pirates and their location is not yet known.
“The Defence Minister assured that all necessary assistance will be provided for the safe and early release of the hostages in case they are found in Nigeria,” the diplomat said, adding that the Nigerian and Togolese navies had been pressed into service to track down the pirates.