Tamil Nadu families await news of kin abducted in Somalia

By Ganesh Nadar

Kanyakumari, Nov 5 (IANS) Three fishermen hailing from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district were abducted reportedly six months ago by pirates off the coast of Somalia and their families are runnning from pillar to post to get news about them.

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Antony, Kingsley and Vijayan were kidnapped May 15 along with 30 others from the fishing vessel Mopeto 97.

“We understand the company that owned the vessel is called KNG,” Sailor’s Helpline coordinator Manoj Joy told IANS. The vessel is believed to belong to a South Korean called An Soo.

According to Vietnamese media reports in May, unidentified gunmen hijacked two Tanzania-registered ships about 200 nautical miles off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Four South Koreans, 10 Chinese, four Indonesians and three Indians were among the crew believed to have been taken to a coastal village.

Antony, 37, who belongs to Chinathurai village in Kanyakumari, boarded the fishing trawler in Tanzania on Feb 15, his family said. When he did not call for 25 days, his worried wife, Leona, called the owner of the vessel, An Soo. He told her that Antony was among those abducted.

Leona said the families have petitioned Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, the legislator from the region as well as central Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who promised to pursue the matter.

But the families say they haven’t received any help from the government so far.

Kingsley’s wife Rani says she was in regular touch with An Soo, who assured her that the men would be released in a week. But he just stopped taking her calls from August onwards, she says.

Antony’s and Kingsley’s families are too poor to leave their villages and seek help from higher authorities.

Vijayan’s old parents, Mary and Jesuddoss, have been running from pillar to post in Chennai to seek help in finding their son and his colleagues. Vijayan was chief officer of the trawler. He had spoken to them thrice after being kidnapped, they said.

“The first time he told us not to lose courage. The third time he sounded lost and asked us to pray for him. After the three calls, he stopped calling. The owner too has stopped taking our calls,” his father told reporters here.

Vijayan’s brother-in-law Antony Jude is upset with the government’s attitude. “On May 17, the news of the trawler appeared in the China Daily. What the Chinese knew in two days, our government claims it is still not aware of!”

Jude says An Soo was in Nairobi and negotiating with the kidnappers till August. They had reportedly demanded $5 million and later scaled the sum down to $1 million. But An Soo refused to pay, saying the sum was too high.

Now no one knows where An Soo is and there is no clue as to where the three fishermen are.

Peter Das, a social worker in Nagercoil, has meanwhile moved the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court. He has asked the court to order the state and central government to alert Interpol and find the missing fishermen.

The court has issued notices to both the governments, asking them what they have done so far to find these fishermen from Kanyakumari.