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World

Somali pirates release British couple after year-long hostage ordeal

A British couple were released by Somali pirates on Sunday after being held for over a year after their yacht was hijacked near the Seychelles.

A man walks past a pirate logo in Mombasa

Paul and Rachel Chandler

A year-long hostage drama involving a British couple came to an end Sunday when the Somali pirates holding them handed the pair over in Adado, a central Somali town near the Ethiopian border.

Mohamed Aden Tiicey, a senior official in Adado, told Reuters the Chandlers were handed over early Sunday after an undisclosed sum was paid as ransom.

"The Chandlers are with me now. They are free and safe," he said.

Pirates had kidnapped retirees Paul and Rachel Chandler on October 23 last year after hijacking their 38-foot yacht in the Indian Ocean off the Seychelles.

"I'm fine, thank you, enjoying being free, but we are still in Somalia," Rachel Chandler told the Reuters news agency by telephone after her release. "We are with the good guys now. We will be making our way to Nairobi later in the day today."

"No, we were not well treated," she added.

Abdi Mohamed Helmi Hangul, a Somali surgeon who was instrumental in the Chandlers' release, told the AFP news agency that the couple looked "in relatively good health but they need to be checked."

"Security is huge here, inside and outside the compound, nothing can happen to them now," he added.

The Chandlers, who hail from Kent in southeast England, were provided with cell phones to call relatives and loved ones, and will now make their way back home.

Piracy in waters off Somalia has spiked in recent years, with pirates usually targeting commercial shipping vessels in order to demand multi-million-dollar ransoms.

The British government has a strict policy of not paying any ransoms. But a local elder in the region told AFP on Saturday that the pirates had agreed to free the Chandlers following the payment of 320,000 dollars on top of 400,000 dollars already received during an aborted release attempt earlier this year.

Author: Darren Mara (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Kyle James

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