Somalia: British Couple held by pirates for Nearly 100 Days

Published: February 1, 2010

Nearly 100 days after being seized by Somali pirates, a British couple appeared in separate videos, speaking of “cruel” treatment by their captors and a longing to see one another.
Rachel and Paul Chandler are being held separately in rugged areas between the coastal village of Elhur and the inland small town of Amara. They were filmed by Agence France-Presse during a visit by a Somali doctor.
The couple had been sailing their yacht between Seychelles and Tanzania as part of an around-the-world trip when they were captured.
“Please help us, these people are not treating us well,” a gaunt and pale Rachel Chandler said in a plea to the visiting doctor, a surgeon. He was allowed to briefly examine the couple on Thursday, accompanied by an AFP photographer, the first journalist to see the Chandlers in captivity.
Pirates armed with assault rifles guarded Chandler where she spoke from a tent. It is surrounded by trees and consists of tarpaulin, orange netting and a few rugs.
“If I was with my husband then I would feel a lot better,” Rachel Chandler said. “It’s because I’m not with my husband that I’m feeling lonely and desperate and I’m finding it difficult to sleep and carry on through the day.”
The surgeon, Abdi Mohamed Helmi “Hangul”, said Rachel Chandler was in poor physical and mental health.
“I think she’s mainly mentally unwell, it seems,” he said. “She’s very confused, she’s always asking about her husband … and she seems completely disorientated.”
In a separate film, Paul Chandler also looked gaunt but less mentally frail. He asked to be with his wife and made a direct appeal to the British government for help. Hangul said he had a bad cough and a fever.
Hangul, a respected figure in the Somali clan to which the kidnappers also belong, said it took him three weeks to obtain agreement from the captors to visit the Chandlers.
The British government said last week it would not get involved in paying ransoms, although it could not stop private individuals from pursuing that option.
Thousands of merchant vessels sail the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. Attacks by pirates have become frequent. Usually, the captives are released after a few weeks or months after a ransom is paid. It is often more difficult for private individuals to pay large ransoms to win freedom.
Last year, French commandos tried to rescue a French family hijacked on their small yacht, accidentally shooting the father dead, but rescuing the mother and their small child.
A multinational naval force patrols the coast of Somalia to prevent piracy. The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia met in New York last week and said the combined military presence had significantly reduced the number of successful pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.
However, it said, “The Somali Basin has seen an increase in the number of active pirate groups but improved reconnaissance could enable timely routing advice and the interdiction by naval forces.”
Some 90 pirates have been detained and nearly 50 skiffs and associated paraphernalia have been destroyed as a result of the stepped up military activity, the contact group said.
Source: Allafrica

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *