Somalia hostage couple appeal to new British government

26th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British couple kidnapped seven months ago and held in Somalia appealed to Britain's new government to help secure their release, in a new television interview aired Wednesday.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, who appeared in reasonable health in the video and were back together after previously being separated, said they wanted Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify Britain's position.

"I would like to say congratulations to David Cameron first. As the new prime minister we desperately need him to make a definitive public statement of the government's attitude to us," said Paul Chandler.

"We are two British citizens, we have been kidnapped in the Seychelles which was a perfectly safe place to be," he added in the interview, broadcast by Britain's Channel Four News.

And he said: "If the government is not prepared to help then they must say so because the gangsters' expectations and hopes have been raised by the thought of a new government. There might be a different approach."

The couple, who were seized when their yacht was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on October 23, have expressed their fear in previous messages that they would be killed if a ransom is not paid.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The UK government's policy of not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers, including the payment of ransoms, is long-standing and clear.

"This has been the policy of successive governments and has not changed.

"Our thoughts are with their families on the release of this video, and our consular officials are in close touch with them. We again urge those holding Paul and Rachel to release them safely, immediately and unconditionally."

The latest video showed them sitting together on blue chairs against a scrub-like landscape. Paul Chandler smiled nervously, while his wife at one stage seemed close to tears when describing the first days of their captivity.

The pair have been separated on two occasions, they said -- on one they were whipped for refusing to split up, while Rachel Chandler showed a chipped front tooth where she was hit with a rifle butt.

© 2010 AFP

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