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The pirate gang holding the crew of the MV Leopard has released videos of the gaunt and emotional crew appealing for the Danish government to pressure their company into paying a ransom before they die.
The videos, released by Waagacusub Media on YouTube, shows five of the six crew members sitting beneath a tree surrounded by heavily armed pirates with their faces obscured. Many of the crew members break down in the video, which the time stamp shows was filmed on July 14.
Somalia Report received Nokia cell phone photographs of the crew taken by the kidnappers with the stuffed leopard mascot in May but did not publish them. The photos were specifically staged to pressure negotiations as it appears these videos were. It is a major ethical concern that media outlets do not aid in the enrichment of criminals but yet at the same time provide information. Typically, pirates remained close-lipped when they are successfully negotiating ransoms and only release images when their extortion attempts are frustrated by professional negotiators. The quick-thinking crew had disabled their ship forcing the pirates to remove them. The MV Leopard was later found floating by the Turkish navy.
It should be stated that although six crew members are missing, only five have been shown in both sets of images.
“For the last 3 months we are sitting here, and we are scared all the time, and cannot sleep ... so the Danish government, please help us before we die,” the haggard Danish Chief Mate said. “The government, you tell the company to pay so we can get home, please.”
The ship’s captain also asked the government to push the owner, Shipcraft A/S, to pay the ransom as he was concerned over the health of his six-man crew, which is comprised of two Danes and four Filipinos. The crew are concerned about cholera in the area, and according to the captain he and many others are suffering from stomach pains after a diet of infrequent meat and goat milk.
The MV Leopard, which the captain admitted was carrying munitions, was boarded on January 12 despite being hardened by barbed wire. The crew disabled the ship, forcing the pirates to leave it to drift and take the crew to land. The crew have since been kept in the bush, believed to be near the village of Wisil in central Somalia. Wisil is inland on the road from the coastal town of Hobyo and is rendezvous center for pirates.
The video release will be seen as a tactic to restart negotiations with the company, which the captain says broke off over three months ago.