x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pirates warn over kidnap couple

Somali pirates who kidnapped a British couple from their yacht last week have warned against any effort to rescue them.

Somali pirates who kidnapped a British couple from their yacht last week have warned against any effort to rescue them, saying they would "burn their bones" should such an attempt be made. The couple and the pirates had both been in touch with a number of media outlets recently. While the couple voiced concerns about their safety and spoke of their ordeal, the pirates made ransom demands in their phone interviews.

Paul and Rachel Chandler were sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania in the Indian Ocean on their 11.6-metre boat called Lynn Rival when they were kidnapped. A distress signal was sent out on October 23. The pirates forced the pair to sail towards Somalia after their boat was captured. The British navy found their empty yacht on Thursday and it is believed the couple were taken to the pirate stronghold of Harardhere, a coastal town which lies within Somali borders.

Among talks that the pirates have had with the media, one included a call to a Spanish television station that was monitored by a EU-led warship, in which Mohammed Hussein, a pirate, threatened to "burn their bones". "We are telling Britain that any bullet of our friends on the yacht will be big cries for the families of the two old people we held," said Mr Hussein in broken English. "We warn them any attack on us, this is a good advice for them, otherwise they will burn their two people's bones," he added.

Another pirate, Shamun Indhobur, also warned through a news agency that attempts to rescue the couple or attack another boat where 36 crew members of a Spanish fishing boat have been held for the past month would have consequences. "If one is attacked, we will punish from the other vessel. We ask their families to contact us and pay what we ask for." The couple were reportedly being taken to that other vessel, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, yet another pirate, Ahmed Hassan, speaking from the Somali town of Harardhere, said the couple were in good health and were being treated well and warned once again against any military rescue effort. He did not disclose the amount of the ransom being discussed among the pirates. But according to the BBC, the demand was likely to be made late yesterday. Mr Chandler spoke on Thursday about the hijacking in a mobile phone call to ITV News, a British broadcasting station. He said he was speaking from the captain's cabin of a Singaporean container ship where he and his wife were being held, about 1.6km off the Somali coast.

"I was asleep and the men with guns came aboard," he said. "They took everything of value on the boat." The call ended before he could reply to a question about their treatment at the hands of the kidnappers. However, in another call to the BBC's Somali service, he said the couple were "well and being looked after OK". He added they were being fed, and "food is OK at the moment". Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for 18 years, became the world's top piracy hotspot last year.

@Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Bloomberg and Associated Press