MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Negotiators paid a $1.6 million ransom for the release of a German-American journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held for two years and eight months, a commander of pirates who held him said Wednesday. A German spokeswoman would not confirm that money was paid for the freedom of Michael Scott Moore and U.S. policy prohibits paying ransoms.
Moore is "doing well" and receiving medical care, Germany's Foreign Ministry said.
Moore, 45, was flown to Kenya's capital after being freed in Somalia on Tuesday. A special German Foreign Ministry crisis group and German federal police had worked "very closely" with U.S. authorities to win Moore's freedom after he was kidnapped on Jan. 21, 2012, while researching a book on piracy, foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told The Associated Press in Berlin.
"Given the circumstances, he's doing well," Chebli said.
She would not comment on what led to his release or on reports that a ransom had been paid, beyond saying "the German government cannot be blackmailed."
The U.S. military in Africa refused to comment on whether the American military was at all involved in the case or if it would be involved in transporting Moore back to the United States.
The Somali pirates negotiated with Somali intermediaries acting on behalf of Germany, Bile Hussein, a pirate commander in the coastal town of Hobyo, told AP. He said pirates grew tired of holding Moore and were increasingly concerned the U.S. would attempt to use force to secure the journalist's freedom.
Just four days after Moore was kidnapped in the northern Somali town of Galkayo as he was driving from the airport, U.S. Navy SEALs rescued an American and a Dane in a nighttime raid while killing all nine of their guards. The two had also been kidnapped in Galkayo, on Oct. 25, 2011.
Moore had freelanced for Germany's Der Spiegel. He holds both German and American citizenship and is a native of Redondo Beach, California
Chebli said Moore was at the German Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday. German officials there denied Moore was present.
In Redondo Beach, the small Southern California beach town where Moore grew up, his stepfather said Wednesday the family was delighted by news of his release.
Louis Saunders said Moore had spoken with his mother, Marlis Saunders, for a couple of minutes.
"He's feeling great to get out, as you can imagine," the stepfather said.
The family had few details about Moore's release except that he was being given a medical checkup, Saunders said.
The couple was aware that negotiations for his freedom were underway and from time to time the kidnappers allowed Moore to make brief phone calls to assure them that he was alive, Saunders said.
Saunders said he expected that Moore eventually will return to Germany.
"He's a pretty strong-willed guy," he said. "My feeling is he'll want to go back to his apartment in Germany and get things straightened out there. He's been out of work for about three years."
Rising reported from Berlin. AP journalist Ben Curtis contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya. Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this report from Redondo Beach, California.