x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Somali pirates 'hold British couple'

British and Seychelles coastguard launch search operation but have not seen the yacht with a British couple aboard that Somali pirates say they seized.

MOGADISHU // Somali pirates said today they have seized a yacht in the Indian Ocean with a British couple aboard and were taking the vessel to the Horn of Africa nation. A pirate called Hassan said the two captives were healthy and ransom demands would follow. "The British couple are in our hands now. We captured them as they were touring in the Indian Ocean." A Seychelles government source said an emergency distress signal was picked up by the British coastguard after Paul and Rachel Chandler headed out into waters notorious for pirate attacks on Oct 22.

"We are currently in touch with the family in the UK and the Seychelles coastguard who continues to monitor the situation and has conducted a search of the area," Matthew Forbes, British High Commissioner to the Seychelles, said. A final message on the couple's blog posted at dawn on Friday morning read: "Please ring Sarah". There has been no communication with the 11.5 metre yacht, Lynn Rival, since then.

A diplomatic source said the Seychelles coastguard had launched a search operation on Friday but there had been no confirmed sighting of the vessel. Maritime sources were unable to confirm the location of the vessel at the time the emergency beacon was activated. A sailors' forum on the internet quoted the US National Intelligence Agency as saying the distress signal was picked up at 0133 GMT on Friday and that the vessel was 60 nautical miles (111km) west of Victoria, the Seychelles' capital.

* Reuters