So­mali pi­rates de­mand $7 mil­lion ran­som in re­turn for UK cou­ple, says broad­caster

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Deaths/world - BYMOHAMED OLAD HAS­SAN

MO­GADISHU, SO­MA­LIA — The BBC said Fri­day that So­mali pi­rates called the broad­caster to de­mand $7 mil­lion for the release of a Bri­tish cou­ple whose yacht was hi­jacked off the coast of Africa.

The Bri­tish broad­caster cited an uniden­ti­fied caller as say­ing the size of the ran­som was jus­ti­fied be­cause NATO forces in the area had ar­rested So­mali fish­er­men and de­stroyed their equip­ment.

Paul and Rachel Chan­dler were headed to Tan­za­nia in their boat, the Lynn Ri­val, when a dis­tress sig­nal was sent Oct. 23. The Bri­tish navy found their empty yacht on Thurs­day, and both have been in spo­radic con­tact with the Bri­tish me­dia since.

Rachel Chan­dler told her brother, Stephen Col­lett, in a tele­phone call broad­cast by ITV News on Fri­day that the cou­ple were “ bear­ing up.”

“ They tell us that we’re safe and we shouldn’t worry and that if we want any­thing they will pro­vide it in terms of food and wa­ter and ev­ery­thing like that,” she said, ac­cord­ing to a tran­script. “ They are very hos­pitable peo­ple so don’t worry ... Phys­i­cally we’re fine, phys­i­cally we’re healthy.”

Ear­lier Fri­day, a So­mali pi­rate claim­ing to speak on be­half of the group hold­ing the cou­ple said they planned to move them to an­other hi­jacked ship with other hostages an­chored off the east­ern coast of So­ma­lia.

Ab­di­nor, who iden­ti­fied him­self only by his first name, said the Chan­dlers were healthy and his group took them to rest on land Thurs­day night at the coastal town of Harard­here. He said at the time they had not yet made a ran­som de­mand.

Bri­tish of­fi­cials held a meet­ing on the hostage sit­u­a­tion Fri­day in the gov­ern­ment’s cri­sis brief­ing room, known as CO­BRA. The For­eign Of­fice said a team from across sev­eral gov­ern­ment de­part­ments was in­volved.

Both For­eign Of­fice and Min­istry of De­fence de­clined to com­ment on whether any po­ten­tial res­cue was un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“ We’re not go­ing to com­ment on those is­sues,” said a For­eign Of­fice spokes­woman, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with depart­ment pol­icy.

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