Monday, 2 November 2009

It's day 11 for the Chandlers

It's Day 11 for Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British yachting couple taken from their boat, the Lynn Rival, by Somali pirates as they sailed from the Seychelles to Tanzania. Initially they were forced to sail towards the Somali coast while the pirates ransacked the vessel for items of value, and made continual demands of money from Paul and Rachel.

Then the yacht was abandoned at sea as the pirates presumably had no patience with its slow progress and transferred Paul and Rachel by speedboat to a container ship they had hijacked some time ago. While on the container ship they spoke to relatives and ITN News via satellite phone. The pirates demanded a US$7,000,000 ransom. Then the couple were taken ashore to the coastal town of Haradheere.

The problem the pirates have with the Chandlers, and they don't usually take small boats, is that all their wealth was tied up in their yacht, which was abandoned at sea and has since been recovered by the Royal Navy. There's no rich oil company to pay the ransom; they probably don't have kidnap insurance, and the British government does not (officially) ransom its citizens, or even talk to terrorists.

The pirates now have so many hostages, the crews from ships they have taken, that the advisability any military rescue attempt, even if completely successful, must be counter-balanced against reprisals on other hostages.

Apparently the COBRA committee has been considering the matter.

I'm guessing they will try to wear down the pirates, let negotiations drag on, reduce expectations, and eventually get the Chandlers "bundled" with the ransom of another vessel and its crew so they aren't seen to be paying for the release of citizens - even if they do put some money in the pot.

The UK government routinely plays down the significance of hostages. They encourage relatives to keep a low profile. This serves two purposes: it takes media pressure off the government, and it bores the kidnappers to the point they may take a negligible sum to hand over the hostages. There is considerable evidence that even when they discover where hostages are being held they prefer simply to do nothing. (Some sources indicate that the intelligence services knew Terry Waite's location for most of his 1,763 days of captivity.)

So the Chandlers had better settle in for the long haul.

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