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Wounded captain of rescued freighter to return home Saturday

SALALAH/MUSCAT, Oman -- The captain of a rescued South Korean freighter, who was wounded during a naval raid on Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea last week, will be airlifted home Saturday, officials here said Friday.

The 58-year-old Seok Hae-kyun was shot three times by pirates during the rescue operation by South Korean commandos for the Samho Jewelry. He was the only one wounded among the 21-member crew of the 11,500-ton chemical carrier seized by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea on Jan. 15.

Seok underwent two rounds of surgery at a hospital in Salalah, Oman, to remove bullets and attach leg bones fractured by gunshots.

He has been taken to an intensive care unit for recovery.

South Korea sent a special plane and a medical team to Salalah to airlift home the captain, who remains unconscious, and has checked if his medical condition is fit for a long-haul flight.

"The medical team decided that Seok can be airlifted home via a special plane equipped with emergency equipment," said Lee Soo-jon, an official at South Korea's foreign ministry who was dispatched here to take care of Seok.

After his arrival in South Korea at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday (Korean time), Seok will be sent to Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, for further treatment, Lee said.

Seok is credited with helping the rescue operation to go successfully. Officials said that the captain stalled for time by steering the ship in a zigzag after armed pirates ordered that the vessel move toward the Somali coast.

The rescue operation killed eight pirates and captured five, while rescuing all 21 crew members of the Samho Jewelry, other than the captain. (Yonhap News)
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