Somali government claims it helped Chandlers' release
Somalia's embattled Western-backed government claimed it contributed to the release of a British couple freed Sunday more than a year after being captured by pirates.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were freed by pirates earlier Sunday, flew from the central town of Adado to Mogadishu, where they were greeted by top government officials during a stopover on their way home.
"The Somali government and Somali people are pleased that they got their freedom," newly appointed prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, said in a statement issued by the president's office.
"The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia exerted every humanly possible effort to bring you back to your loved ones and notwithstanding what you went through, at last you are free and we are happy," he said.
Instead of flying directly from Adado to the safety of Nairobi, the British couple, who were kidnapped 388 days ago, were now set to leave the country of their ordeal from war-torn Mogadishu, one of the world's most dangerous cities.
The Chandlers were met off the plane by Mohamed, as well as the parliament speaker and other top officials, before being whisked away to the presidential palace in an African Union armoured vehicle.
The Western-backed TFG controls only a few blocks in the capital, where it battles Al Qaeda-inspired insurgents almost daily, and wields virtually no influence in the areas where the pirates operate.
"Many would surely be asking how this freedom came about, that is not for us to dwell on as we are working to free others, our objective was to win their freedom and we are delighted they are free," Mohamed said in the statement.
President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who is out of Somalia to perform the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, was also quoted in the statement as expressing his satisfaction at the Chandlers' release.
"We are deeply sorry that pirates who are Somalis took their freedom, but I also know many brave Somalis worked assiduously and continuously to free the Chandlers -- we salute them," Sharif said.
Some Somalis held demonstrations of support for the Chandlers during their captivity and members of the diaspora and the local community are believed to have contributed to the ransom paid to the pirates.
According to elders and sources close to the tortuous negotiations that led to the Chandlers' release, at least 750,000 dollars were paid.
© 2010 AFP