Somali Pirates Warn Against Any Attempts to Rescue Hostages

A group of Somali pirates warned against any effort on part of foreign navies to rescue a British couple seized a week ago, saying a ransom demand is being prepared.

Paul and Rachel Chandler "are in our hands and I can confirm that they have good health and are well-treated,” Ahmed Hassan, a member of the gang, said today in phone interview from the pirates' stronghold in the northeastern Somali town of Harardhere. "Any military rescue attempt would endanger their lives" and the other hostages on the hijacked container ship to which they were taken, he said.

The pirates’ demands relate only to money, and the couple will be released as soon as a ransom is paid, Hassan said. The decision on the amount of ransom is being discussed among the pirates, “but first we should be on high alert to prevent any rescue attempt,” he said.

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown appealed to the pirates yesterday to release the couple. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said, “We will be using all the mechanisms at our disposal to try to ensure there is a safe return of these two British nationals." Britain’s Royal Navy is part of the European Union’s anti-piracy naval force in the region, Bloomberg reports.

It was also reported, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were snatched from their yacht in the Indian Ocean last week, had been held aboard a Singaporean cargo ship hijacked by pirates.

The pirates moved them to the Spanish vessel after elders in the Somali town of Haradhere refused a pirate request to allow the Chandlers ashore, the source said. The source spoke to a CNN stringer on condition he not be named to protect his security.

Paul Chandler spoke with CNN's British affiliate ITN by phone on Thursday, saying men with guns had boarded the couple's yacht, demanding money and taking everything of value.

He spoke later with the BBC's Somalia Service, reportedly saying, "We are well and being looked after OK." He said they were being fed and "food is okay at the moment," CCN reports.

Meanwhile, the pirates believed it would be safer for the couple to be kept on a ship with other hostages, he said.

Commander John Harbour, spokesman for the European Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR), said the pirates usually secure the vessel they have captured then contact the ship's owner to start negotiations.

He said the pirates often take trade ships but have recently seized a couple of yachts, taking the crews prisoner.

"They know lives are worth a lot of money," he added.

He warned that negotiations can take months, BBC News report.

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