Jakarta: Six Indonesian ship crew members, held hostage by a militia group in Benghazi, Libya, were released and returned to Indonesia. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has handed over the six crew members to their families in Jakarta on Monday.
The crew members, working aboard the Salvatore 6 Maltese fishing vessel, were abducted by a Libyan militia group in the Benghazi waters, some 72 miles off the Libyan coastline on September 23, 2017.
The Foreign Ministry had received information on the abduction of the crew five days after the incident occurred. Since then, the ministry has been making attempts to establish contact, including with the ship owner.
"The process of release is not easy, as there are political problems in Benghazi and Tripoli," Marsudi noted.
The ongoing Libyan civil war, which has seen the country split into two controlling factions, the UN- and Maltese-recognized National Transitional Council of Libya based in Tripoli and the military-backed government in Tobruk, which rules over Benghazi, had complicated the process of securing the release of the hostages.
After making some diplomatic attempts, the handover of the hostages from the armed group at the Benghazi fish port was successfully carried out on Mar 27.
"The intensive approach has been applied over the past six months, stressing that Indonesia is close to Libya, and that Indonesia is not part of the Libyan conflict," Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the ministry's Indonesian citizen protection director, remarked.
The six crew members are Rony Wiliam from Jakarta, Joko Riyadi from Blitar, and four others from Tegal: Hariyanto, Saifudin, Muhammad Abudi, and Waskita.
Navigation and communications equipment as well as refrigerators and personal belongings in the ship were taken away by the militia group when the crew members were captured.
In December last year, the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli had successfully communicated with the detained crew to check their condition before the government could make preparations to secure their release in Benghazi.
"We thank you for reuniting us with our families," Roni William, one of the captured crew members, noted.
When William and the five other crew members were held hostage for about six months at one of the ports in Benghazi, they also witnessed first-hand the armed conflict in Libya.
"We saw the aircraft from up close, as they were only one or two kilometers away, and sometimes there were strayed bullets," William recalled.
In addition to the six Indonesian crew members, the militia group detained the captain of the ship. However, the ship's captain was released early due to health problems, he remarked.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has sought to restore the rights of the crew by communicating with the ship owner in Malta. (Antara)
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