Thursday, July 5, 2007

Boat driver back home after four-month ordeal

Fisherman Simon Souza, who was held captive by the LTTE and then detained by the Maldives police over the past four months, returned here on Wednesday to an emotional welcome by members of his family and friends.

Souza, hailing from Kochi, had gone to sea from Kollam with 12 fishermen from Colachel in Tamil Nadu, but ran into the LTTE in March. While the 12 others were released some time back, his captors detained him in a boat they used for arms smuggling, officials said.

Souza, however, escaped from the LTTE during a shootout in the sea between the LTTE and Maldives police patrolling the area. His release from Maldives was secured with the state government taking up his case with the Centre.

Narrating his experience, Souza said the LTTE sought to use him for arms smuggling as he was an expert boat driver and mechanic. Though it was a bitter experience to be in the militant outfit's captivity, they did not torture him, he said.

"In the first few days, I refused to take food offered by them. They threatened me that I would be shot if I continued to starve myself. Then I said, I should be allowed to pray first before taking any food. They accepted my plea," he said.

Souza said he did not face any harassment at the hands of the Maldives police as they were quite friendly. They lodged and fed him properly and he was even allowed to move freely there. Before taking the flight home, they even gave him some gifts to be taken home.

State Fisheries Minister S Sarma, Souza's wife and his three sons were present to receive him.

Source: DNA

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