Varanasi man released by pirates after 45 days, reaches home

A marine engineer, who was abducted by pirates near Nigeria in March, reached Varanasi late on Wednesday night after being released on Monday.

Pirates abducted Santosh Kumar Bhardwaj, a third engineer with Singapore-based shipping company Transocean Limited, along with four of his colleagues – two Ukrainians, a Dane, and a Pakistani man – when their ship Sampatiki was at sea, around 30 nautical miles off Nigerian capital Lagos.

“During wee hours on March 26, when our ship was at sea, the pirates surrounded it and opened fire. The pirates jumped on the ship… They directed us to put on life jackets and asked us to climb on a boat. Then they drove the boat to a village on an island surrounded by dense forests,” Bhardwaj told Hindustan Times at the family’s Raj Tilak Nagar residence.

He said the pirates, who were equipped with satellite phones, offered food and mosquito nets and allowed them to interact with each other during the 45 days they were held.

“They didn’t harm us and assured that they wanted money and would free us soon after they get it,” Bhardwaj said.

The pirates contacted his employers to put forth their demand and Transocean sought three days’ time to get back, he said. It sought the help of a British expert and a person, who was abducted few years back, to secure his release.

After several rounds of dialogue, the pirates released Bhardwaj and his colleagues near Port Harcourt in Nigeria when their demand was fulfilled.

“I am extremely happy to inform that Santosh Bhardwaj has been rescued from pirates in Nigeria,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Wednesday.

Bhardwaj thanked Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for helping his family secure his release. His wife, Kanchan, had written to the PM with an appeal to accelerate efforts to rescue him.

“I am quite thankful to Sushma Ji because she made serious efforts to get me released and also consoled my family members. Certainly, the government acted promptly in this case because I belong to the PM’s constituency,” he said.

His daughter Charu and father Virendra Prasad Thakur plan to celebrate his marriage anniversary in a grand way.

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