Somali pirates move Danish family onto ship

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 8:54 AM
Somali pirates move Danish family onto ship

Pirates moved a captive Danish family onto a ship off the Somali coast on Friday and threatened to kill them if further attempts were made to free them.

The developments follow a botched rescue attempt by forces from Somalia's semiautonomous northern region of Puntland on Thursday evening. Five soldiers were killed in the attempt to rescue the Danish couple, their three children and two Danish crew members.

"We have moved the hostages onto a ship our friends are holding for security reasons," said a pirate who gave his name as Hassan Abdullahi. "But our armed troops are on the shore to fight those trying to attack us. The hostages are healthy and safe now but suffering from homesickness."

Abdullahi said they were only looking for "ransom" but those attacking them want "hostages' deaths."

Another pirate, Bile Hussein, warned Friday the hostages will be killed if there are any more rescue attempts.

"We know they are still in the process of trying to attack us again, but I am telling them that will cost the lives of the Danish people," Hussein, a self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press.

The Thursday raid by Puntland security turned deadly after the would-be rescuers walked into an ambush. Armed forces tried to surround the village of Hul Anod to free the family but were beaten back. Hussein said Friday that five security forces and two pirates died in the exchange.

Puntland government officials didn't answer calls seeking comment.

The botched rescue attempt comes about two weeks after pirates killed four captive Americans held on their yacht off East Africa. Four U.S. warships were following the hijacked yacht at the time.

Pirates typically demand and receive millions of dollars to release hijacked boats and captured crews. Some of that money is then reinvested in heavy weapons.

Frans Barnard, an independent security consultant who was himself kidnapped and held briefly in Somalia last year, said the pirates holding the Danish family are not as experienced as some older pirate gangs, a fact that could increase the danger the family finds itself in.

Bernard said the risks associated with the Thursday rescue attempt by the Puntland forces were "phenomenal."

He said that the decision to move the family onto the ship rather than taking them further inland could mean that the pirates had weighed the risks and decided that the Puntland authorities were more dangerous than the threat of a rescue at sea by the international community.

The Johansens, their three children and two crew members were kidnapped two weeks ago after pirates seized their 43-foot (13-meter) sailboat.

Maritime experts said the Johansens had placed themselves in grave danger off Somalia's lawless coast despite warnings from naval forces struggling to police the area against pirates.

Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades, and piracy has flourished off its coast. Maritime authorities say as ransoms have climbed into the millions of dollars, pirates are holding hostages for longer and becoming more vicious.

Also Friday, India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said the government has stepped up efforts to free 53 Indian sailors held captive by Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden. He said the government is pressing ship owners to speed up negotiations with the pirates so that the abducted sailors are released soon.

Somali pirates freed 11 Indian sailors two days ago, part of a crew that had been held for nearly a year.


Associated Press writers Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya and Nirmala George in New Delhi contributed to this report.