Somali Pirates Allegedly Take Hijacked British Couple to Shore
Somali pirates who hijacked a British couple's yacht brought them to a fishing village on shore Thursday, according to a fisherman who witnessed the event.
Two boats carrying eight pirates and a white couple arrived in the village of Ceel Huur in the early morning, said Dahir Dabadhahan. A convoy of around 30 other pirates in six luxury vehicles met the group in front of fishermen preparing their boats of the day, he said.
"The pirates opened fire into the air, waving us to move away," Dabadhahan said.
Ceel Huur is just north of a notorious pirate stronghold in the town of Haradhere.
Also on Thursday, the British navy found Paul and Rachel Chandler's empty yacht, floating in international waters.
"The Royal Navy found the yacht drifting in what was called international waters and has taken a very close look at it," Sky News' foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall said. "I've been told the Navy has taken what was called 'a very good look' at the yacht and there is no reason to believe the couple has been harmed — no bullet casings, no blood."
"Royal naval vessels operating with our international partners under EU, NATO and combined maritime forces will continue to play a full role in efforts to secure Paul and Rachel's release," a Defense Ministry statement in London said.
The Chandlers' concerned family spoke out about their hopes for the couple's safe return.
"If I was to give a message to the pirates, I'd say you've got the wrong people," said Jill Marshment, the sister of Paul Chandler, Britain's Press Association reported.
International naval forces have been hunting for the couple for days. The Chandlers were heading to Tanzania in their yacht, the Lynn Rival, when a distress signal was sent early Friday, according to the U.K. Maritime and Coast Guard Agency.
A European Union Naval Force spokesman in Somalia told Fox News on Wednesday that "various naval craft are in the area and aware of (the hijacked British) yacht's location."
He said reports stating that the yacht, allegedly hijacked by Somali pirates, had been spotted near Harardheere are "about right."
The pirates allegedly responsible for the hijacking off the Somali coast have threatened to "burn the bones" of the couple, according to Sky News.
Pirate Mohamed Hussein warned that any attack on his colleagues would endanger the lives of the alleged captive couple, Sky News reported.
"We are telling Britain that any bullet of our friends on the yacht will be big cries for the families of the two old people we held," said Hussein. "We warn them any attack on us, this is a good advice for them, otherwise they will burn their two people's bones."
Another pirate, Mohamud Noh, told Sky News by phone that he feared "warships" were targetting his colleagues.
"Any attack [on his colleagues] may endanger the lives of the two old people we captured," Noh told Sky.
On Tuesday Naval Forces spotted a yacht towing two smaller boats behind it after Somali pirates claimed to have seized the British couple and their boat in the Indian Ocean during their round-the-world voyage.
Click to view Paul and Rachel Chandler's blog.
LIVESHOTS: British Couple Targeted by Pirates.
“We have captured two old British [people], a man and woman in the Indian Ocean, they were on a small boat that we have hijacked,” a pirate called Mohamed Shakir told The Times of London by phone from Haradheere in Somalia.
The pirate added that the two were “healthy and in our hands” but would not say where they would be taken. Ransom demands are likely to follow.
The U.K. Foreign Office said they have been in touch with the couple's family in England, and have contacted the Coast Guard in Seychelles, who continue to monitor the situatiion.
The Chandlers left the Seychelles last Thursday, heading for Tanzania via the Amirante Islands. Their emergency position-indicating radio beacon was activated on Friday.
The couple, both in their late 50s, have been sailing around the world. The last message on their blog, entered shortly before the distress signal was sent, reads simply: “PLEASE RING SARAH”.
The previous entry, written before leaving the Seychelles, was full of preparations for their voyage. “We’ll be at sea for 8 to 12 days, maybe 14 as we are now getting into the period of transition between the south monsoon and north monsoon, so the trade winds will be less reliable and we may get more light winds," they wrote.
In the past two weeks there have been at least five ships seized by pirates in the waters off the Seychelles. Activity has picked up in recent weeks as Monsoon winds and rains have died down.
This year there have been some 174 ships attacked by pirates off Somalia, 36 of which are being held. At least 587 people are being held hostage. Ransoms being paid out in recent months total in the tens of millions of dollars. The pace of hijackings is running ahead of last year.
Fox News' Greg Palkot and The Associated Press contributed to this report.