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