Fifteen Turkish sailors who were kidnapped on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria last month arrived back in İstanbul on Sunday, where they were welcomed by their families, AFP reported, citing the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
The ship, the Mozart, had been en route from Nigeria’s economic capital of Lagos to Cape Town in South Africa when it was boarded on Jan. 23.
The unidentified armed men killed an Azeri sailor and wounded several of the Liberian-flagged vessel’s crew.
The ship then sailed on to Gabon before contact was officially lost.
Turkey said Friday the sailors had been released.
They arrived at İstanbul Airport on Sunday to be greeted with applause in the presence of their relatives and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Anadolu reported.
The ship’s captain, Mustafa Kaya, told waiting media that the crew had been held in a forest.
“We suffered no physical abuse, but psychologically, it was very difficult,” he said.
Neither the government nor the ship’s owners have released any information about the sailors’ release, but their kidnappers had made a ransom demand.
Pirate attacks on ships worldwide jumped 20 percent last year driven by a record spate of kidnappings off West Africa, the International Maritime Bureau said last month.
Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea — the highest-ever number of crew members kidnapped in the area stretching thousands of kilometers (miles) from Senegal to Angola.
Ten sailors from the Turkish navy also kidnapped off the coast Nigeria were freed in August 2019.