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September 30, 2023

Even after a week, 4 Indian seafarers are held captive

By Priti Naik

“My husband called me yesterday and informed that all the crew members are safe and are being treated well. But we do not know when will he be able to call again,” said wife of Sandeep Singh, a second officer who is among the 11 crew members held captive in the ship M/V Rwabee . It has been almost a week since Houthi rebels captured the cargo ship that belonged to United Arab Emirates on January 3.

Four members of the 11 crew that are held captive are Indian seafarers. Sandeep Singh, second officer, and cadets Munnawar Sheikh, and Akhil Raghu are among the four crew members held captive in the ship.

Manoj Joy, community development manager of Sailor’s Society stated that the cadets informed their families that there was heavy firing when the rebels captured the ship. He also mentioned that the UAE and Mumbai based agencies recruiting these seafarers were to inform the families but they didn’t do so and the families got the news through foreign media.

The Houthi rebels who are pro-Iran fighters hijacked M/V Rwabee which appears to have been carrying Saudi Arabian military vehicles, gears and equipment. The ship was captured at night of January 2, near the port town of Al-Hudaida on the Red Sea.

The Rwabee, a civilian operated landing craft, was reportedly bound for the Saudi port of Jizan. The Royal Navy Maritime Trade Operations had been informed and signaled about the hijack but were unable to react on time. With almost no resistance and minimal efforts from the crew the Houthi rebels took over the control of the cargo ship and deliver it to militia-controlled coast.

The Houthi spokesperson said that the ship entered the Yemeni territorial water which are under the control of the rebels, and the ship and the crew members are arrested. The Saudi Arabia has stated that the ship was carrying medical supplies and equipments. The photograph released shows an ambulance and other equipment in the vessel include HEMTT, an AM General HMMWV, a field kitchen, RHIB boats, rifles, and personal equipment.

The ship was conducting a transport mission from the Island of Socotra to Jizan Port. It was reportedly carrying elements of a temporary military hospital after it was no longer needed due to the construction of a new, permanent facility. The members of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels stated that the act of piracy committed by Iran-backed militants will not remain unanswered. The coalition already called for the release of the ship and its crew from captivity. It also threatened to undertake military operations if the demands will not be fulfilled by the rebels.

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