Bangladeshi hostages aboard hijacked ship send Eid greetings to families back home

The owner of the MV Abdullah confirmed there have been negotiations to free the 23 crew members.
Reyad Hossain
Bangladeshi hostages aboard hijacked ship send Eid greetings to families back home Bangladeshi sailors being held hostage aboard the MV Abdullah by pirates near Somalia pose for the camera as they gather to offer Eid prayers, April 10, 2024.
Courtesy victims’ families

The first officer of a Bangladeshi-crewed ship hijacked off East Africa in early March conveyed Eid al-Fitr greetings on behalf of the 23 sailors who had fasted during Ramadan while being held captive by Somali pirates, his brother said Wednesday.

The pirates aboard the MV Abdullah allowed their Bangladeshi hostages to offer Eid prayers and prepare Semai (vermicelli), a traditional Eid celebration food, said Abdun Noor Khan Asif, brother of the ship’s chief officer, Md. Atik Ullah Khan.

To mark the occasion – the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar – the crew members dressed up and posed for a group photo on the ship’s deck, where they performed Eid prayers.

On Wednesday, people in Somalia celebrated Eid, the holiday marking the end of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours. Bangladesh will celebrate the holiday on Thursday.

“This hostage situation will end soon with a sincere and swift effort to negotiate a ransom with the pirates” by the government and the ship’s owners, Atik told his brother in a four-minute audio message shared with BenarNews.

“The desire to see many loved ones together on Eid has to be restrained for now. … Another Eid will come after this Eid, when we will again be with our loved ones, in our beloved motherland, Bangladesh,” Atik said.

The first officer spoke of sleepless nights and his wish for freedom.

“However, I feel consolation that Allah has granted us to fast in Ramadan and offer taraweeh prayers safely and soundly even in this state of being hostages, Alhamdulillah,” Atik said in the recording. “We have a good understanding with the Somali pirates from the beginning, mainly due to the good management of Capt. Mohammed Abdur Rashid and the patience and good mentality of all the crew.”

“Eid Mubarak to dear Bangladesh,” he said.

Relatives of other hostages – Abu Bakr Siddique, the brother of Mosharraf Hossain Shakil; Jannatul Ferdous, the wife of Noor Uddin; and Mohammad Farid, the father-in-law of Atiq Ullah Khan – said they were able speak with their loved ones on Tuesday before Eid. 

In his audio message, Atik described how he and others had been trying to survive in the face of dire conditions.

“Almost every time the whole ship shakes at the sound of test firing – and we have become accustomed to that too. I will try to adapt to the environment by applying survival methods in the coming days,” he told his family.

Jannatul Ferdous said her husband, Noor Uddin, and others had suffered from a lack of access to water.

“He can take a bath once or twice a week. Because of this, he is suffering from severe skin disease,” she told BenarNews.

“Not only has my husband, but several others have been affected. The condition has worsened to such an extent that some are having trouble standing or sitting.” 

The pirates seized the Bangladesh-flagged bulk carrier on March 12 in Indian Ocean waters as it was transporting 58,000 tons of coal from Maputo port in Mozambique to Al Hamriya, a port in the United Arab Emirates. As many as 50 armed men boarded the ship about 500 nautical miles off Somalia and forced it to sail to the coast. 

The MV Abdullah belongs to the S.R. Shipping Line, which is owned by Bangladesh’s KSRM Group. 

Eight days later, on March 20, the hijackers made their first contact with the ship owner, but they did not make any demand then, Mizanul Islam, KSRM’s media adviser, told reporters at the time.

‘No joy’ on Eid

On Wednesday, Capt. Anam Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers Association, expressed hope following news of the Eid celebration.

“Allowing all the crew to pray together means that there is peace with them,” he said.

He forwarded to BenarNews the group photo of the hostages taken on Wednesday. It shows 22 people gathering for a prayer. Most of the men in the picture are wearing Punjabi Pajamas, the traditional Eid attire.

Despite receiving the message and photo of their loved ones, relatives said that Thursday’s Eid holiday in Bangladesh would not be one to celebrate.

“There is no joy in our family on Eid. My parents cry all the time,” Siddique said. “Does anyone have a chance to celebrate Eid in this situation?”

Ferdous said she too did not plan to celebrate. 

“No Eid has come to our house. There was no shopping for Eid, I did not even buy anything for my 2½-year-old child,” she said. “There is no joy until they are free.”  

Chowdhury said he thought negotiations between the ship owner and the pirates were in the final stage based on the Eid celebration.

The owner, SR Shipping Lines, was reluctant to talk about the status of such talks.

“Our discussions are going on, there is progress. Nothing more can be said,” CEO Mehrul Karim told BenarNews on Wednesday.

Mizanul Islam, KSRM’s spokesman, confirmed there have been negotiations.

“The formalities will begin after Eid,” he said.

A government official, meanwhile, said he hoped the sailors would soon be freed.

“It could be possible to rescue the sailors by this month,” Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, state minister for shipping, said on Tuesday.

The hijacking was not KSRM’s first.

In December 2010, Somali pirates seized the MV Jahan Moni, another ship owned by SR Shipping, and released the crew after more than three months. The Business Standard reported that the crew members were released after a multi-million-dollar ransom was paid. 

Waters off the Horn of Africa are notorious for piracy targeting international shipping. Al-Shabaab, the Islamic militant group in Somalia, is known for carrying out such attacks.


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