Captured for 1000 days, Jewel Ahiable’s story
Halliday Finch employee, Jewel Ahiable is in the process of launching his memoirs “Captured for 1000 days” which recount his experience onboard a voyage that turned into one of the most horrific piracy stories of the last decade and the longest maritime hijacking recorded in modern history.
On 29th March 2010, just 12 hours into a voyage from the port of Aden en route to Dubai, Jewel and 23 of his crew members were aboard the MV Iceberg I – a slow moving cargo vessel carrying large generators and transformers – when it was approached by Somali pirates off the coastline of Eden. Eight masked men in a “Skiff” armed with AK-47s circled the boat, peppering the rusty ship with bullets. The ship had no security whatsoever and was far too slow to outrun the Skiff.
The pirates hijacked the vessel and over the next 1000 days the 24 men onboard would undergo a nightmare of physical and mental torture, most of which would unfold inside a 25 square metre room.
The pirates demanded USD 10 million for the ship and refused to lower their offer. The Yemeni owner immediately disowned the vessel and her crew. It soon became clear to the hostages that nobody would be paying for their release.
The men endured bouts of physical torture at the hands of the pirates, accompanied by the mental pain generated by the ominous and harrowing creaking of a condemned ship, the repetitive sloshing of breakers , the lack of sleep, food and water in a room which was so hot the men could barely breathe. This physical and mental torture was made worse by the feeling of abandonment that soon crept over the men. And as the time passed, Jewel and his crewmates began to give up hope that they would ever be rescued.
The days crept into weeks and the weeks into months. Many became sick from poor diets consisting of pitiful amounts of dirty rice and seawater contaminated with petrol. One crewmate was beaten so badly in front of the crew members that they all simultaneously wept.
The Third officer died and his body was kept onboard the boat in a ill working fridge freezer.
The UN made an unsuccessful bid to negotiate with the pirates to take away the dead body and so it remained onboard for 5 months before the pirate commander ordered the officers body to be thrown into the sea.
As time passed, the ship’s anchors broke and the vessel went aground.
The crew, now extremely weak and ill, were forced to empty the ship’s holds of water over 3 continuous days with almost no sleep, food or water.
Jewel kept himself sane through his strong Christian faith and by writing a diary on any scrap of paper he could find.
The rescue mission was carried out nearly 3 years after the boat was hijacked. It would take 2 weeks of continuous gunfire until the men were freed.
When on the 23rd December 2012, the Puntland maritime military
entered the small room, they met with 22 men who were close to their end
1000 days living in unbearable conditions.
For some onboard, the nightmare did not end in 2013. Since being freed, Jewel’s struggles have continued. None of the hostages received backdated wages, as per maritime law.
Added to this, many of the crew members who survived have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and ongoing health issues. It is unsurprising that the memories of those 1000 days will haunt Jewel and his fellow crew members for the rest of their lives. Jewel has not returned to sea again.
Azal Shipping Company in Dubai have refused to answer calls and the Ghanaian government, whilst they received Jewel and his colleagues home to a hero’s welcome, did nothing to assist them financially or with a job.
In 2013, a member of the UNODC team who had helped secure the crew’s release, Leonardo Hoy-Carrasco, called Halliday Finch for help, to see if they could assist with Jewel’s situation.
Jewel has now been working for the investigations team in Ghana for 5 years and lives in Accra with his wife and newly born son.
This account is based on an interview with Jewel Ahiable. His full
memoirs will provide a unique and personal account of his story – for
more information on the book’s publication, please get in touch with
him: firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook@hijackedfor1000days