KARACHI: A Pakistani sailor, who had “miraculously" survived a missile attack from a fighter jet on board a cargo ship in Yemeni waters six months ago, safely reached his home in Karachi on Saturday.
Cargo ship ‘Jouya 8’, registered in Iran, was reportedly targeted off the coast of Hodeidah, Yemen, when it was travelling between Dubai and an Egyptian seaport. A crew of eight, all of Pakistani origin, were on board under the command of Captain Syed Anisur Rehman.
According to a December 2016 report in the Maritime Herald, only one sailor, identified as Kabir Khadim, was able to survive by jumping off the ship and swimming to the Hodeidah port. He is said to have dragged the body of his deceased colleague, Suhail Ahmed, to the shore with him.
In a video shared by human rights activist Ansar Burney several months ago, Khadim was seen narrating the incident to someone on the phone while lying on a stretcher. He said a missile from a jet hit their ship causing it to sink. At that time, he was unsure about the fate of the rest of the crew.
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The date of the incident is unclear and the attack could not be independently verified. However, according to Yemen’s state-owned Saba news agency, a boat carrying 12 Pakistani sailors was hit in a Saudi air raid off Mukha coast in the Yemeni province of Taez on December 4. Six sailors were killed and as many others were still unaccounted for, the news agency had reported.
The Saudi government is fighting a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Hodeidah is said to be under the Houthi militia’s control.
Burney, who broke the news and rescued Khadim, shares credit for recovering the sailor with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) And International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
"No government, be it Pakistani, Saudi or Yemeni, was involved in the whole process," Burney maintained.
"At first there was a problem in tracing the whereabouts of Khadim," said the human rights activist who first learnt of the incident and sought help from various government and international organisations to rescue Khadim.
"We were receiving calls and messages from different numbers operating from different zones. Finally, we were able to locate him inside Syria," he added.
He said the IMO managed to pull him out of Syria and then from Djibouti he was sent back to Pakistan.
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"There are many questions which need to be answered. The incident appears to be suspicious but we are concerned about lives first. Khadim has returned. Now we look forward to the others, " Burney said.
However, Khadim confirmed that his crew had perished in the attack, including captain Anisur Rehman, chief engineer Muhammad Shoaib, electrician Muhammad Ibrahim, welder fitter Muhammad Hanif, cook Abdul Razzaq, and seamen Suhail Ahmed and Akhtar Ali.
The cargo ship was said to be carrying skimmed milk powder from Iran to Egypt and was instructed to return to the base on December 4 when it was targeted.
The bodies of the dead Pakistani crew, as per the last information received, were at the Hodeidah military hospital.