ANKARA, Turkey — Fifteen Turkish sailors who were kidnapped by pirates off west Africa last month returned to Turkey on Sunday.
The freed hostages were welcomed at Istanbul Airport by their families and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after 21 days in captivity, Anadolu news agency said.
The Liberian-flagged M/V Mozart was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria, to Cape Town, South Africa, when it was attacked on Jan. 23 about 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) northwest of the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
One crew member, an Azerbaijani national, died during the attack. Three other Turkish sailors who were left aboard the Mozart returned to Turkey last month.
“After 21 days, we have got our freedom and now we are experiencing the happiness of reuniting with our families.,” Captain Mustafa Kaya said after hugging his wife and two sons. “Returning to our homeland cannot be described in words.”
The crew were held under armed guard in tough conditions in a forest, he said, before being released and flown back from Nigerian capital Abuja. Apart from the psychological stress of their captivity, none of the seamen were harmed, Kaya added.
No details of their release has been provided and it was not known if a ransom was paid.
The Gulf of Guinea, off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon, is the most dangerous sea in the world for piracy, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
In July 2019, 10 Turkish seamen were kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria. They were released less than a month later.