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Chinese hostages receive tearful welcome home after four-year ordeal at hands of Somali pirates

Eight mainland Chinese and one Taiwanese former hostages held by Somali pirates for over 4½ years have arrived in China after their release last week, state media reported.

The malnourished crew members arrived at Guangzhou airport on Tuesday morning, state TV said.

They were among 29 Asian hostages taken captive on an Oman-flagged fishing vessel south of the Seychelles in March 2012.

Twenty-six were released last week. One crew member died during the hijacking and two later from illness.

Free at last: 26 Asian sailors released after being held hostage by Somali pirates for more than four years

A pirates spokesman Bile Hussein said US$1.5 million in ransom was paid for the sailors’ release, the Associated Press news agency reported on Monday. The claim could not be independently verified.

A ninth mainland member of the crew is still receiving medical treatment in Kenya.

The crew were mainly held in Somalia and in deplorable conditions, according to the US-based organisation Oceans Beyond Piracy.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the crew members were released “through various efforts” and that the Chinese government was grateful to all organisations and people involved in the mission.

The crew members were greeted by state media at a VIP lounge at Guangzhou airport, with “welcome home” banners displayed.

A crew member from Sichuan province only identified by his surname Fan said he was very pleased to be home.

“As soon as the pirates agreed to release us, my heart felt ecstatic. It feels like being given a second chance to live,” said Fan.

Piracy surge could turn Southeast Asian waters into ‘new Somalia’, Indonesia warns

The Taiwanese crew member was named as Shen Jui-chang, the chief engineer on the boat, and he is

expected to arrive home on Wednesday.

His wife Yang Hsiu-hui expressed thanks to government organisations on the mainland and in Taiwan for helping to secure her husband’s release.

“I am very exhausted over the past two days, but I am excited to hear that my husband is heading back home,” she was quoted by Taiwan’s Central News Agency as saying.

Sixteen of the 26 crew are now back in their home countries, to be greeted by tearful family members, Chinese state TV reported.