Somali pirates free British couple

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mogadishu - A British couple held captive in Somalia for more than a year were released on Sunday by pirates who held them in the centre of the country after attacking their yacht off the Somali coast.

The couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, was set free after long negotiations with their captors and were now in the central Somali town of Addado in Galgaduud province, said Abdi Mohamed Helmi "Hangul", a Somali doctor who treated the couple in captivity and took part in the effort to release them.

"They are fine and are now talking to the local elders and the administration and will soon leave the town for Mogadishu where they will fly to Nairobi," Hangul said.

Addado is under the control of local Himin and Heeb regional autonomy and is a relatively peaceful part of central Somalia.

It was not immediately clear if a ransom had been paid but pirates who held the Chandlers have been demanding hefty ransom for the release of the elderly British couple since their ordeal began almost a year ago.

Piracy is rife in waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden where a number of ships and their crew were taken hostage by the pirates who ask for ransom for their release.

Last week alleged Somali pirates took two South Africans hostage. Bruno Pelizzari and his girlfriend Deborah were taken captive after their yacht was hijacked in the Indian Ocean.

A third person, Peter Eldrige, managed to escape the drama safely and is back in South Africa.

According to a media report on Sunday, government has said it will not pay a ransom for the release of the couple.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's Albie Laubscher told 702's Eye Witness News that while government would do everything possible to secure their release, it could not negotiate with terrorists.

He said government demands nothing less than the unconditional release of its citizens.