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British couple released by Somali pirates: officials

Somali pirates released British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler on Sunday after holding them hostage for more than a year, Somali officials said.

world Updated: Nov 14, 2010 14:24 IST

Somali pirates released British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler on Sunday after holding them hostage for more than a year, Somali officials said.

Somali pirates kidnapped the retired couple on October 23, 2009 after hijacking their 38-foot yacht Lynn Rival in the Indian Ocean off Seychelles.

Mohamed Aden Tiicey, a senior official in the town of Adado said that the Chandlers were handed over early on Sunday after the payment of a ransom. "The Chandlers are with me now. They are free and safe," he said.

Rachel Chandler confirmed that they had been released and that they were very happy to be free.

Abdi Mohamed Elmi, a Somali doctor who has been involved in efforts to free the Chandlerssaid that the couple had been released and would leave Adado by aircraft. A plane left Kenya's capital, Nairobi, on Sunday morning to collect them.

"We succeeded in getting the British couple released. We did our best to achieve this good news," he said.

Big ransoms

Somali pirates typically hijack merchant vessels, take the ships to coastal towns they control and hold them until a ransom is paid. With ransoms usually in the millions of dollars, the lucrative trade has continued despite foreign naval patrols.

According to the International Maritime Board, ship hijackings hit a five-year high in the first nine months of 2010 with Somali pirates accounting for 35 of the 39 ships seized.

According to Ecoterra, a rights group that monitors shipping in the Indian Ocean, more than 500 crew members and nearly 30 ships were still being held by Somali pirates as of November 10.

While the pirates usually focus on larger ships, a few yachts have also been seized.

Pirates kidnapped three South African yachtsmen about two weeks ago. One escaped when the yacht ran aground in southern.

Somalia and he was rescued by the European Union's anti-piracy task force. The other two are being held captive onshore.

A French hostage was killed and four others freed in April 2009 when French forces attacked a yacht that had been hijacked by Somali pirates.