British kidnap couple poorly treated, need urgent help

AMARA, Mohamed Dahir- A British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates in October said they were not being well treated and needed urgent help, according to an AFP reporter who met them in captivity.
"Please help us, these people are not treating us well," said Rachel Chandler, captured by pirates with her husband Paul as they sailed their yacht, the Lynn Rival, in the Indian Ocean on October 23.
They were brought ashore and have been held in separate locations in central Somalia.

A woman watches footage in November 2009 of Paul and Rachel Chandler (AFP/File/Leon Neal)
A woman watches footage in November 2009 of Paul and Rachel Chandler (AFP/File/Leon Neal)
Rachel Chandler made her plea to a surgeon who was allowed to briefly examine the pair on Thursday, accompanied by an AFP photographer, the first journalist to see the Chandlers since their capture.
The surgeon, Abdi Mohamed Helmi "Hangul", said she was in poor mental and physical health.
"She is sick, she is very anxious, she suffers from insomnia," Hangul told AFP.
"But I think she's mainly mentally unwell, it seems. She's very confused, she's always asking about her husband -- 'Where's my husband, where's my husband? -- and she seems completely disorientated," he added.
The pair are being held in separate locations in rugged areas between the coastal village of Elhur and the small town of Amara, further inland.
During the visit Chandler looked pale, tired and distraught and pleaded to be reunited with her husband.
"I'm old, I'm 56 and my husband is 60 years old. We need to be together because we have not much time left," she said.
She spoke to the doctor in the presence of the AFP photographer, from a tent where she is being guarded by pirates armed with assault rifles.
Surrounded by trees, her tiny hideout consists of orange netting, tarpaulin and a few rugs.
For his part Paul Chandler appeared psychologically more robust than his wife but admitted the conditions of their separate detention were difficult.
"Please help us, we have nobody to help us, we have no children... We have been in captivity for 98 days and we are not in good condition," he said.
Hangul said Paul Chandler "had a bad cough and seemed to have some fever."
The surgeon, who had initially travelled to his hometown of Hobyo in early January to start building a hospital there, said it took him three weeks to obtain agreement from the kidnappers to visit the Chandlers.
Hangul, a respected figure in the Somali clan to which the kidnappers also belong, said he was not allowed to bring drugs with him but left a prescription with the captors.
"I gave them some advice and told them: 'Your hostages can die, all you want is money so treat them well, let them re-unite'," the doctor said. "They said that they agreed but I cannot be sure what they've done."
Neither the Chandlers nor their kidnappers made any reference to a ransom.
"We do not know what is happening right now, we have spoken to people and we are still waiting," Rachel Chandler said, without elaborating.
A Foreign Office Spokesman did not comment on the status of the negotiations but stressed that Britain was "monitoring the situation very closely and doing everything we can to help secure a release."
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband insisted last week the government would not get involved in any ransom payments to secure the Chandlers' release.
He said he could not stop private individuals from pursuing the possibility of a ransom deal, but the government had always made it clear that making concessions to hostage-takers was not in Britain's interests.
The hundreds of Somali sea bandits plying the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden generally hijack merchant vessels among the 20,000 ships that sail each year off the Somali coastline on one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.
Those ships -- which have included supertankers worth hundreds of millions of dollars -- and their crews are generally released for a ransom after a few weeks or months.
But in the relatively rare occurrences of small sailing yachts being taken, with no insurance companies and wealthy maritime operators to foot the ransom bills, the crew is the pirates' only bargaining chip.
French commandos last year tried to rescue a French family hijacked on their small sailing yacht. They saved the mother and their small child but accidentally shot the father dead during the operation.

Monday, February 1st 2010
Mohamed Dahir

New comment:

News | Politics | Culture | Education | Interview | Features | Arts | Media | Science I Tech | Entertainment | Society | Travel | Sport