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 Somali pirates free UK couple Paul and Rachel Chandler

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Join date : 2010-09-22

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PostSubject: Somali pirates free UK couple Paul and Rachel Chandler    Somali pirates free UK couple Paul and Rachel Chandler  Icon_minitimeSun Nov 14, 2010 2:08 pm

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Will Ross on what lies ahead for the Chandlers, seen here hours after their release
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Timeline: Chandler kidnap
Chandler family statement
The Editors Blog
A retired British couple have been released by Somali pirates after being held captive for more than a year.

Paul, 60, and Rachel Chandler, 56, from Kent, were seized from their yacht near the Seychelles in October 2009.

Mrs Chandler said: "I'm enjoying being free". The couple said they were fine, but will undergo medical checks.

They were taken to Adado, then Mogadishu, and have now arrived in Kenya. The BBC held off reporting the release due to an injunction.

It observed the terms of the order obtained by the Chandlers' family which was intended to stop news organisations covering their release until they were safely out of Somalia.

Rachel Chandler and her husband said they were fine after their ordeal
Mr Chandler told the BBC: "We're fine, we're rather skinny and bony but we're fine."

The couple were told they were to be released two days ago, he said.

"We were told on Friday in a way which gave us some confidence to believe it. Otherwise we'd been told we'd be released in 10 days almost every 10 days for the past nine months. So we'd taken all these suggestions with a pinch of salt."

Asked if he had felt their lives had been in danger during captivity, he said: "That's something we'll talk about later, but we were not really directly endangered by the gang, after the initial seizure."

The husband and wife both stressed that the conditions of their captivity were not important, with Mr Chandler saying: "You can see from our state that we suffered no serious physical harm."

However he added: "We were beaten once."

Family 'overjoyed'
At a brief press conference at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Mrs Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, said: "We are among decent everyday people, with Somali people... and not with the criminals.

"To home now, with our family and friends," she added.

Members of the Chandler family in the UK told the BBC they were "overjoyed" at the news of the release, which they heard on Saturday evening UK time.

A statement issued by the Chandler family once the couple had arrived in Nairobi said that although the couple looked to be in "relatively good health... we cannot yet be certain how the difficulties that they have had to endure in recent months will have affected them physically and emotionally".

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The trauma will have been terrible for them, and they'll need a lot of help and support.”

Baroness Kinnock
It is not clear if any ransom was paid to secure the couple's release, however, the BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross says it seems highly likely that money did change hands.

The family statement said: "There will be the inevitable questions of how their release was achieved.

"The family believes it would be irresponsible to discuss any aspect of the release process as this could encourage others to capture private individuals and demand large ransom payments, something that we are sure none of us wants."

Without going into details of the negotiations, the statement said: "Throughout the protracted discussions with the pirates it has been a difficult task for the family to get across the message that these were two retired people on a sailing trip on a small private yacht and not part of a major commercial enterprise involving tens of millions of pounds of assets.

"Thankfully, common sense finally prevailed and a solution was obtained for their release in the last few days."

Earlier in the Somali capital Mogadishu, Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed met the couple and said the government was pleased they had been freed.

Paul Chandler said he hoped to return to sea
He said the government had "exerted every humanly possible effort to bring you back to your loved ones".

Trauma and recovery
Baroness Kinnock, who was involved in the case during her time as Foreign Office minister for Africa, said: "It seems to have gone on endlessly, and we've all felt terribly concerned for the Chandlers who have obviously suffered a great deal during their imprisonment by the Somali pirates."

She wished them a speedy return to their familes, but said: "The trauma will have been terrible for them, and they'll need a lot of help and support."

She said there had been "a lot of activity" in the Foreign Office, but it was difficult to make contact with the pirates.

"Obviously they hadn't realised that they'd captured two people who were not hugely wealthy and would never ever have been able to pay the ransom they were demanding," she told the BBC.

Any ransom payment by the UK government would "cause an escalation of this kind of activity", she said.

In June, the couple asked Prime Minister David Cameron whether he was willing to negotiate with the kidnappers.

But the Foreign Office said at the time that the UK government's policy of "not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers, including the payment of ransoms, is long-standing and clear".

Earlier this year their captors threatened to kill the couple if their demands for $7m (£4.4m) were not met.

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