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Pirates reduce ransom for Chandlers after pressure from abroad

By Sue Richards last modified Feb 25, 2010 04:11 PM

Published: 2010-02-25 16:11:17
Topics: Piracy Reports 2010

As reported by Save the Chandlers

The pirates who captured a retired British couple four months ago have dismissed growing pressure from the Somali diaspora for their unconditional release but are reducing their ransom demands.

Speaking to The Times from the place where Paul and Rachel Chandler are held, a pirate leader identifying himself as Ali Gedow rejected appeals from the British and other expatriate Somali communities worried about their reputation. “We don’t care about their pressure,” he declared.

But he made no mention of the pirates’ original demand for a $7 million (£4.5 million) ransom and suggested that they might release the couple if they can recoup their “expenses”. He put those at around $2 million, claiming that they included the cost of 150 guards, renting vehicles and food.

Even that amount appears to be out of the question. The British Government has refused to pay any ransom and the Chandlers’ family do not have that sort of money. But the pirates’ lessened demands have given rise to hopes that they realise they have captured the wrong people and are looking for a face-saving way out.

A Whitehall security official told The Times: “This case is unusual. Unlike seamen kidnapped in the region, the Chandlers are just ordinary holidaymakers without the backing of a big company and the pirates may well be realising this now.”

Ridwaan Haji Abdiwali, a presenter with the Somali satellite television channel Universal TV, who has used his show to appeal for the Chandlers’ release, said that the pirates would have put the couple up as collateral to borrow money. “Since Somalis (abroad) began pressuring them it seems they are reducing their demands,” he said.

The Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured on October 23 as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania. Mr Gedow claimed — absurdly — that their yacht was inside Somali waters and that the pirates were simply protecting those waters from illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping.

He said Mrs Chandler’s brother, Stephen Collett, called the pirates almost daily to appeal for the couple’s release, but the British Government had made no contact. If the Government did not pay, he warned, “they will never see this couple again”.

Mr Gedow claimed that the Chandlers’ health was poor and deteriorating, with Mrs Chandler, 56, scarcely talking and unable to walk any distance. There was no need for the pirates to consider killing their hostages as they would die soon anyway.

There is no way to corroborate those claims, though the pirates did release a video in January showing Mrs Chandler looking thin and frail. Mr Gedow refused to put Mrs Chandler on the telephone, though he claimed that he was standing next to her.

He said the Chandlers were being kept in separate locations near the coastal town of Haradheere in case the British military tried to rescue them, and had not seen each other since a Somali doctor visited them last month. He said that he felt sorry for them but “those responsible are the British Government and the British people who don’t care about these two. Other hostages have been released by their own countries . . . Everyone else in the world is helping their own citizens.”

The Government argues that it should do nothing to encourage the seizure of other British citizens. A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are monitoring the situation very closely and doing everything we can to help secure a release.”

A spokesman for the Chandlers’ family declined to comment, but a letter released to the media earlier this month said a continuing “dialogue” with the pirates was making progress.

For previous noonsite reports about the Chandlers see here.