The Indian Embassy in neighbouring Tunisia pursued the matter relentlessly with the Libyan authorities

Nine Indian citizens who had been held hostage by a local militia in Libya for several months have been freed by their captors and will be heading back home to India soon, people familiar with the matter said on Saturday (June 3, 2023).

Of these nine Indians, five are from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

Their ordeal began on February 15, 2023, when the commercial ship they were working on, M.T. Maya 1, broke down close to the coast of Libya, leaving them stranded. The Greek-owned ship flying the flag of Cameroon was delivering oil supplies from Malta to Tripoli. Seizing the opportunity, a local militia took them captive, leading to a distressing ordeal that lasted for many weeks.

According to people familiar with the developments, the incident came to light when the group contacted the Indian Embassy in Tunis. They informed the authorities of their dire situation and said that they had been abducted by the militia. The Indian Embassy immediately took up the matter with the Libyan authorities, seeking consular access and to ensure their safety and repatriate them to India as early as possible.

It is learnt that an informal contact of the Indian mission met them almost every week thereafter to ensure their early release and make provision of essential food items. The mission, meanwhile, continued to follow up the matter with the authorities concerned in Libya.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Indian Embassy in Tunis remained in regular contact with the families of these Indian nationals, keeping them informed of the developments in the case.

On May 31, 2023, a breakthrough was reached after weeks of relentless follow-up with Libyan authorities when the local militia decided to free all nine Indian citizens. Upon their arrival in Tripoli, the released crew members were welcomed by the Indian Ambassador toTunisia. They have been temporarily housed in a nearby hotel while the necessary paperwork for their departure visa is processed.