Two Sri Lankans held captive by Somali pirates for nearly for years had escaped a British mediator working to free the hostages had said, but four of their colleagues had died during the ordeal. The two men and a woman had been travelling in a convoy guarded by armed police, were seized by gunmen in ambush in the Galkayo area of the northern autonomous Puntland region of Somalia in July 2012.

All three Kenyans were flown back to Nairobi Saturday along with the sailors, and were welcomed at the airport by emotional families who embraced the aid workers, several in tears, Steed said.

Foreign special forces have launched raids to rescue their nationals, including one in 2012 by US elite commandos who swooped in by helicopter to free two aid workers held for three months.

Those left behind come largely from nations without the capabilities or desire to send in troops to rescue impoverished fishermen. The sailors, who had been held in dire conditions and suffered beatings and torture, AFP, a news agency said.

In addition to the two Sri Lankans, there were seven sailors from Bangladesh, one Indian, and one Iranian among those who escaped.

John Steed, a former British army colon

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