Paul and Rachel Chandler held inland by gang

Media outlets are reporting that Somali pirates have stepped up their threats against the British couple kidnapped on their yacht on 23rd October, saying they would be “punished” unless the commanders of a German warship allowed seven captured pirates go free.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, are reportedly being held in a village outside Harardhere, 180 miles north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

The Times reports that

“We will punish them with the same punishment that our guys are receiving,” said Omer, one of the gang holding the couple. The couple were seized on October 23 as they sailed their Rival 38, Lynn Rival, from the Seychelles to Tanzania.

The pirates who are holding them were referring to seven comrades being held aboard a German warship. The pirates claim that the seven Somali men arrested aboard two skiffs were fishermen, but a spokesman for EuFor, the European Union’s Naval presence in the area, said they had been captured as they fired AK-47 assault rifles at a French trawler.

European security sources said yesterday that the seven pirates could be tried in France, Germany or Kenya, and that a hostage swap for the Chandlers would not be contemplated.

The Times reports that the Chandlers have fallen foul of an internecine feud, and are being held by an inexperienced gang who are now travelling overland from village to village, and are being threatened by “senior pirates” who want their colleagues aboard the German ship returned.

The Guardian reports that the pirates at first demanded a ransom payment of $7m (£4.2m), but reduced their demand to £100,000, which the UK government has since declined to meet.

Download the Cruising Association’s September 2009 feature on piracy