Thursday, October 29, 2009

British Couple Taken Hostage by Armed Pirates Near Seychelles Islands

Via CNN -

A British man and his wife were taken hostage by armed pirates who boarded their yacht, the man said in an interview released Thursday.

Paul Chandler told ITV News that he and his wife, Rachel, are being held on a container ship near the Somali coast.

He said three boats came alongside their yacht when he was asleep.

"Men with guns came aboard," he told ITV by a crackly phone connection. "Then we were forced to sail ... toward Somalia."

Chandler said he and his wife were taken off the yacht and were held on a container ship called the Kota Wajah, ITV reported.


Also Thursday, the British navy said it had found the couple's empty yacht in international waters.

A ministry spokesman said it appeared that the couple had been transferred to another vessel.

"There's nothing to indicate that they've been harmed," said the spokesman, who asked not to be named in line with policy.

"We will be using all the methods at our disposal to ensure the safe return of these British nationals," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for the release of the couple, according to the UK's Press Association.

Brown said a news conference, "Piracy and the taking of hostages is unacceptable in any circumstances. We call on those people who have taken the British citizens hostage to release them as soon as possible."

The Chandlers set off from the Seychelles for Tanzania on October 21 on their 38-foot-yacht, the Lynn Rival, according to their blog. A distress beacon was activated October 23, according to naval officials.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a statement Thursday saying "hostage taking is never justified."

It said, "Paul and Rachel are blameless tourists and they should be released immediately and unconditionally. The families are deeply concerned for the safety of their loved ones."

Foreign office staff members have been in close contact with their families, it said.

Pirates have been very active off the east coast of Africa in the past several years, operating out of lawless Somalia.

Two vessels were attacked the day after the Chandlers set sail. One of them, a cargo ship, was boarded and seized off the Seychelles, and the other fought off its attackers near the Kenyan coast.

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