Families' fears for hijacked UAE ship crew

Ambassador to meet relatives after release deadline isn't met.

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DUBAI // The time has come to explore "other options" to secure the release of hostages aboard thehijacked MV Iceberg 1, according to the Indian ambassador.

MK Lokesh said he would meet crew members' families to discuss a new game plan after the ship's Yemeni owner failed to meet the mid-July deadline to secure their release.

"We have waited and we are disappointed," said Mr Lokesh. "The owner is elusive. He has not met anyone and we have been dealing only with his lawyer.

"We are not very happy. We have to think of something else now."

The MV Iceberg 1, owned by the Dubai-based Azal Shipping, was captured on March 29, 2010.

One of its 24 crew members died last year. The sailors are from Yemen, India, Ghana, Pakistan, Sudan and the Philippines.

For the crew's relatives, who believed the men would be released this week, the ordeal continues. Their fears have been heightened since they cannot reach the ship's owner and are anxious about the fate of the captives.

"We have heard nothing from the owner," said the father of a hostage, who did not want to be named. "If we only knew why there is a delay. We really believed we would see our son this week."

Another relative, in India, said: "I spoke to my husband after more than a year and he said they would be released. Everyone received calls last month, and now there is nothing. I am very disturbed and tense, I don't know what to think."

Family members in Ghana, too, said the silence was worrying.

"We believed my father when he said they would release him soon," said AE, the daughter of a Ghanaian hostage. "We have heard nothing since then. All we want is to know what happened and why things have changed."

Mr Lokesh said his government would exert more pressure on the ship's owner. Azal Shipping declined to comment.

rtalwar@thenational.ae