CAIRO: The families of 37 fisherman kidnapped by Somali pirates say that not enough is being done to secure the men s release.
Holding up signs reading, “If the kidnapped men weren t Egyptian would the government stay silent? the group of around 30 protestors – mainly women and children – demonstrated outside the People s Assembly yesterday.
“My husband, brother, uncle and cousin were kidnapped, Hedaya Ismail told Daily News Egypt.
“They left on March 13, 2009 but we only found out that they had been kidnapped 20 days later. We re not sure on which day exactly they were seized.
The group of 37 fishermen, from Borollos in Kafr El-Sheikh, and Damietta, set out to sea in two boats, the Ahmed Samara and the Ahmed Momtaz.
Relatives say that they had obtained the necessary permits from the Egyptian authorities allowing them to fish, prior to setting out.
The kidnappers are demanding a $5 million ransom.
Ismail told Daily News Egypt that this is an impossible sum for the families to pay, adding that a fisherman makes around LE 400 after two months at sea.
Ismail says that she now has no news about her missing relatives.
“All the news we receive about them is via television. I tried to call them once and a Somali answered the phone. Since then whenever I ring, the call is either cancelled or someone answers and then immediately hangs up, Ismail said.
“We haven t heard from the government at all since the kidnapping. No-one has done anything.
Twelve year-old Amal Adel, whose father Adel is one of the fishermen kidnapped held up a picture of him during the demonstration.
She and her five siblings are now living with their grandmother. Another protestor told Daily News Egypt that Amal s mother died when she heard the news about her husband s kidnapping.
Opposition People s Assembly member Hamdeen Sabahy criticized the Egyptian authorities failure to do “what is required of them.
“Action taken by the Egyptian authorities so far is less than required both by the scale of the event and Egypt s position in the region, Sabahy told reporters.
“The Egyptian authorities know where the kidnapped men are being held. It is unbelievable that Egypt, which was once a key leader in Africa, and assisted in the liberation of African countries, cannot secure the return of citizens present in Africa, Sabahy continued.
Sabahy said that he planned to raise the issue in parliament and urged Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to engage Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi as a mediator in negotiations with Somali tribal leaders.
“Egypt must act. These families do not have the means to pay the ransom demanded of them, Sabahy said.
Sabahy made reference to military action taken by the Yemeni navy following the seizure of a Yemeni oil tanker.
“Is it acceptable that Yemen intervenes militarily but Egypt – with all its history and its glorious navy – can t intervene to save 37 Egyptian citizens?
This matter doesn t just concern the kidnapped men. It is about Egypt s dignity and value.
Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki could not be reached for comment.