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British couple released by pirates meet with Somali PM

posted 14 Nov 2010, 08:48 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 14 Nov 2010, 08:50 ]

Paul and Rachael Chandler, the British couple released by Somali pirates, meet Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Mogadishu.

A British couple released by Somali pirates met Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed under heavy African Union troop guard in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday (November 14).

Paul and Rachael Chandler were released by Somali pirates earlier on Sunday after being held hostage for more than a year.

The pirates kidnapped the retired couple on October 23 last year after hijacking their 38-foot yacht Lynn Rival in the Indian Ocean off Seychelles and negotiations for their release had been ongoing.

Mohamed Aden Tiicey, a senior official in the town of Adado where they were handed over, told Reuters the Chandlers were freed early on Sunday after the payment of a ransom.

Paul Chandler, 60, and his wife, Rachel, 56, are from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in southeast England.

Somalia parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden said he was happy to see them and wished them good luck as they return to their country.

After the meeting a plane flew the couple to the Kenyan capital Nairobi where they were handed over to the British High Commission, Ahmed Ali, one of the negotiators who organised the Chandlers' flight from Somalia told Reuters by telephone.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government for almost two decades and is awash with weapons. The mayhem on land has allowed piracy to boom in the strategic waterways off its shores linking Europe to Asia and Africa.

Somali pirates typically hijack merchant vessels, take the ships to coastal towns they control and hold them until a ransom is paid. With ransoms often in the millions of dollars, the lucrative trade has continued despite foreign naval patrols.

While the pirates usually focus on larger ships, a few yachts have also been seized.

Pirates kidnapped three South African yachtsmen around two weeks ago. One escaped when the yacht ran aground in southern Somalia and he was rescued by the European Union's anti-piracy task force. The other two are being held captive onshore.

A French hostage was killed and four others freed in April 2009 when French forces attacked a yacht that had been hijacked by Somali pirates.