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Fishermen rescued from coastal pirates

Dozens more still held for ransom in the Sundarbans mangrove forest

Authorities detain two suspected pirates in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in this file photo Authorities detain two suspected pirates in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in this file photo
  • ucanews.com reporter, Bagerhat and Khulna
  • Bangladesh
  • August 17, 2012
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A joint air and naval operation this week in the Sundarbans in southwestern Bangladesh has rescued 36 fishermen out of more than a 100 kidnapped by pirate gangs operating in coastal waters.

In the largest crackdown to date, about 200 coast guard and naval personnel continue to search for the remaining captives, which were abducted earlier this week.

“Rescuers have used four navy ships, two air force helicopters and 10 high-speed boats in the operation, scouring rivers and canals inside the forests,” said Sayedur Rahman, a coast guard commander.

Rahman said the fishermen were taken from fishing boats operating deep within the dense mangrove forest and were being held for ransom.

“We have demolished three hideouts of the gangs and would like to flush them out of the forest. But we have not yet succeeded because of bad weather,” Rahman said, adding that operations would continue to recover the remaining hostages.

Abul Hossain, 55, was among the rescued fishermen and said many of his fellow workers remained missing.

“Last Friday, pirates attacked our 15 trawlers on the way back from the sea. They took all our fish and beat us up. Then they took us hostage inside the forest and demanded a ransom from our boat owners,” he said.

The Sundarbans is the world’s largest tidal mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site extending from southwest Bangladesh into parts of eastern India.

Kidnappings for ransom are common among the gangs of outlaws that operate within and around the Sundarbans, where poorly equipped forest rangers struggle to enforce the law in the forest’s large networks of canals and waterways.

Mahbub Ahmed (not his real name), an official from the social development NGO Rupantar, said poverty and lack of rule of law contribute to the problem and that without adequate law enforcement and social rehabilitation efforts, the kidnappings would likely continue.
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