They have been held captive in the capital of civil war-torn Yemen since February
Twenty sailors, including five Bangladeshis, have been held captive by Yemen's Houthi rebels for nearly nine months, according to media reports.
Two of the people in captivity were from India’s Kerala, seven from Maharashtra, two from Tamil Nadu, one each from Puducherry and Uttar Pradesh, reports The New Indian Express.
The Indian news agency, however, could not ascertain the number of Bangladeshis held captive. Moreover, the remaining seven detainees also include Egyptian people.
Local daily Desh Rupantor, quoting Indian embassy sources, stated that five of the remaining seven detainees are Bangladeshis.
However, Dhaka Tribune was unable to verify this information independently.
The 20 seamen have been held captive in Sana'a since February. They were en route to Saudi Arabia from Oman on three ships before being captured by Houthi rebels.
Sana’a, the capital of civil war-torn Yemen, is under Houthi control. The Houthi rebels usually detain foreign nationals for ransom.
The detainees, including Bangladeshis, have been kept in four rooms of a five-storey hotel.
One of the captives said on WhatsApp: “We were on our way to the port of Yanbu in Saudi Arabia for construction work. On the way, we got the news that a ship had sunk in the Red Sea.
“We rescued them and anchored off the coast of Yemen in early February. Introducing themselves as members of the coast guard, some people took us to Sana’a. We later came to know that they were Houthi rebels. They said we were apprehended on the charge of encroaching on Yemen’s territorial waters.”
According to various sources, the owners of the three ships are not even trying to get the captives released. The Houthi rebels demanded 200,000 riyals from the Omani ship owners but the owners were reluctant to cave to the demand.
The owners maintained that the matter is in the hands of the government.
Indian embassy officials spoke to the detainees four months ago. They promised that everyone would be set free. The officials are trying to bring the detainees to a location controlled by the government.
The detainees said they are trapped like prisoners. No one is allowed inside but they are provided with food.
“We hear the sound fire exchange every day,” said one detainee.
Meanwhile, the shipping company has not provided any salary since February which has made the expatriates worried about the wellbeing of their families.