Danish Family held hostage in Somalia regret Sailing Route

Published 11 years ago, updated 5 years ago

By JAN M. OLSEN – Associated Press

A Danish family that was held hostage by Somali pirates for more than six months said in an interview published Thursday that it decided to sail alone through the dangerous waters off the Horn of Africa, hoping to sneak through safely. “It was the decision of my life that I regret the most,” Jan Quist Johansen, the father, said in the first interview since the family’s release.

The parents and their three teenage children were captured along with two Danish crew members on Feb. 24 after their yacht was seized by the pirates in the Indian Ocean.

They had chosen to sail there alone and not in a convoy with other ships, hoping the vastness of the sea would help protect them. Yachts and much bigger commercial ships often travel in convoys in the region because of pirates.

The Danes turned off lanterns and electronic equipment that would make them visible, kept radio silence and deliberately gave wrong information about their position on the Internet.

“A convoy is a smorgasbord for the pirates. They are both fearless and have no scruples,” his wife, Marie Quist Johansen, was quoted by the Politiken daily as saying. “They can start shooting at the first (boat) to show that they are serious, and take all they can handle.”

But seven days after leaving the Maldives for Oman, a fishing boat with five pirates armed with AK-47 assault rifles abruptly ended their idyllic round-the-world journey.

The family immediately sent out an SOS that it was under attack, hid its GPS and threw an emergency position-indicating radio beacon into the ocean. The family’s emergency calls were heard, but too late, its members said.

Marie told the newspaper they “cried and were afraid many times” but their Somali captors never hit them. They also were able to stay together during the ordeal that ended Sept. 6.

“They are only interested in money and if they don’t get it fast enough, something bad would have happened to us,” the father told Politiken.

Danish officials have refused to comment on whether a ransom was paid, and the family didn’t tell Politiken if any money were involved in their release.

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