• Piracy at sea has been a continuing problem for Somalia.

Piracy at sea has been a continuing problem for Somalia. (Photo : Twitter)

Chinese sailors captured by pirates in Somalia in 2012 have finally returned home after their ordeal.

The then Chinese sailors, nine from the mainland and one from Taiwan were among the 26 hostages released on Saturday by pirates from Somalia, with the other hostages coming from Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam, China Daily reported.

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The freed hostages were part of the 29 crew members of the Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel Nahm-3, which was hijacked by Somali pirates back in March of 2012. Three of the hostages reportedly died during the takeover, among them a Chinese mainland resident and a Taiwanese.

According to Hostage Support Partners coordinator John Steel, the freed hostages suffered from malnourishment due to their four and a half years ordeal. He also noted that one of the freed hostages had a bullet wound in his foot while another suffered a stroke and one more had diabetes.

Steel, who organization helped in the negotiations for the hostages' release, personally went to the city of Galkayo in Somalia to accompany the sailors. He said that they were able to accomplish their mission thanks to the coming together of community and regional leaders, as well as those from the religious community, to pressure the pirate group to release the hostages.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also thanked the organizations and people who helped in the effort. Officials and state media welcomed the freed sailors at a VIP lounge after their arrival at an airport in Guangzhou.

One of the sailors, a native of Sichuan Province surnamed Fan, expressed his happiness after his group was told that they will finally be released, the South China Morning Post reported.

A spokesman for the pirates, Bile Hussein, said that a ransom of around $1.5 million was paid for the sailors' release, but the claim was not immediately verified.