Some 26 "forgotten hostages" held by Somali pirates for years after the piracy crisis faded from the headlines are finally free. The captives, fishermen from Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines, were freed Saturday with the help of the Hostage Support Partners group, which negotiated with tribal and religious leaders. John Steed, a retired British colonel who works as a coordinator for the group, tells the AFP that the men are in "reasonable condition," considering that they have "spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families." He says the men are the "last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy."
Steed says one crew member died during the March 2012 hijacking of their Omani-flagged vessel and another two died during their captivity. He says the boat sank a year after its capture and the men were taken to a village in Somalia, where they were held by "pirates making increasingly irrational demands." On Sunday, the freed sailors were flown from Somalia to Kenya, where one of them told the BBC he felt like the "walking dead" after so long as a captive. He said food and water were in short supply and the men had eaten rats to survive. "Eat anything, even you not like, you feel hungry, you eat it,” he said. "You eat rat, you cook it." (Read more Somali pirates stories.)