The Lebanese Foreign Ministry and the Lebanese Embassy in Nigeria continue to closely monitor the kidnapping of 3 Lebanese nationals who were, among reportedly 5 other people, on the Milano 1 cargo ship when it was boarded by pirates last week.
The ship, which disappeared from radars for some time last Thursday as it made its way from Nigeria to Cameroon, is believed to have been hijacked by a notorious militant group known as the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers.
Since then, there have been consistent calls and efforts to attempt to secure the release of the Lebanese citizens, including by the owner of the ship, Lebanese sailor Ahmad Al-Kut.
Al-Kut told Nidaa Al-Watan newspaper that he has received several phone calls via an untraceable phone from the kidnappers, who demanded that he secures ransom in exchange for the release of all of the hostages.
The sailor, who had rented his ship to a Cameroonian citizen for this particular trip, revealed that the pirates had demanded $1.5 million for the 3 Lebanese hostages.
Nonetheless, he informed the pirates that he is the owner of the ship, and he is now mediating the negotiations with them.
“I’m in direct contact with the Nigerian Navy and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but I do not know whether the Lebanese state will be able to secure the required ransom so that we at least get the crew back,” he told Nidaa Al-Watan.
On his part, Al-Kut has offered to sell his ship to Lebanon to pay off the ransom.
“Let the Lebanese state buy my ship and pay the ransom for the three Lebanese sailors, and I do not want a penny, nor do I want to recover my ship,” he said.
Al-Kut did not share the names of the kidnapped to avoid unnecessary “media hype” that might negatively impact their family members. He said the families do not have the ability to secure the ransom, especially in hard currency, in light of the current economic crisis in Lebanon.
However, he was able to confirm that all of the crew members were safe during his contact with the pirates.