Twenty six Asian sailors held hostage by Somali pirates for nearly five years have been released, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry Sunday night.
The Chinese government expresses sincere gratitude to all agencies and personnel that had been involved in the rescue and conveys heartfelt blessing to those rescued crewmen, said the ministry's spokesperson Hua Chunying in a press release.
The 26 crew members of the Naham 3, a fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in March 2012, were rescued on Saturday (Beijing time) and moved to Kenya on Sunday with the help of relevant United Nations agencies, said the Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
Twenty nine sailors of the Naham 3 were taken captive when their Omani-flagged vessel was seized south of the Seychelles, including 10 from the Chinese mainland, two from Taiwan, and 17 others from the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Three people died after the hijacking, including one from the Chinese mainland and one from Taiwan, according to Hua.
A working group of the Chinese Foreign Ministry was sent to meet the surviving Chinese crewmen, she said.
After receiving a medical examination and psychological counseling, the Chinese crewmen will return to their home escorted by the working group as soon as possible, she said.
She also offered condolences to the three people who died after the hijacking and extended sympathy to their families.
The Chinese government strongly condemns the cruelty of the pirates that defy human dignity, she added.