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Daily Archives: November 15, 2010

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes release of Paul and Rachel Chandler

British Prime Minister David Cameron

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November 14, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the release of kidnapping victims Paul and Rachel Chandler.

The Chandlers, from Kent, left Somalia today after more than a year in captivity. They were taken hostage in October last year when their yacht was stormed by armed men.

The PM said:

“Paul and Rachel Chandler’s release is tremendous news. Their long captivity is over at last. We will ensure that they are reunited with their family as quickly as possible. I unreservedly condemn the actions of those that held the Chandlers for so long. Kidnapping is never justified.

“I am grateful to all those who have worked so hard to bring the Chandlers safely out.”  (*)

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After 388 days, Somali pirates free British couple

British sailors Paul and Rachel Chandler, left, talk with a local leader after the two were released from captivity on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 in Adado town, Somalia. The British couple kidnapped off their private yacht by Somali pirates more than a year ago were set free Sunday, ending one of the most drawn-out and dramatic hostage situations since the rash of piracy began off East Africa. Pirates boarded the Chandler's 38-foot yacht the night of Oct. 23, 2009, while sailing from the island nation of Seychelles. The couple, married for almost three decades, took early retirement about four years ago and were spending six-month spells at sea (AP)

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November 15, 2010 NAIROBI, Kenya (KATAKAMI / AP)  – The retired British couple were sailing the world on a 38-foot-yacht that represented most of their life savings when Somali pirates captured them last year, demanding the sort of huge ransom a multimillionaire or a multinational company might cough up.

The fact that Paul and Rachel Chandler couldn’t pay a big ransom helped stretch out their ordeal 388 agonizing days — until Sunday, when they were released thin and exhausted, but smiling. It was one of the longest and most dramatic hostage situations since the Somali piracy boom began several years ago.

The Chandlers were welcomed by the Somali community close to where they had been held, and later met with the Somali prime minister in Mogadishu. A private jet then flew them to Nairobi’s military airport, where they were whisked away in a British Embassy vehicle.

“We are happy to be alive, happy to be here, desperate to see our family, and so happy to be amongst decent, everyday people, Somalis, people from anywhere in the world who are not criminals, because we’ve been a year with criminals and that’s not a very nice thing to be doing,” Rachel Chandler said at a news conference in Mogadishu.

She also said in a BBC interview that their captors beat them during their captivity after deciding to separate the couple.

“We were really distraught, very frightened at that point,” Chandler said. “We refused to be separated and we were beaten as a result. And that was very traumatic.”

When asked about their health, she said “we’re OK.”

Pirates boarded the Chandlers’ yacht the night of Oct. 23, 2009, while the couple were sailing from the island nation of Seychelles. The couple, married for almost three decades, took early retirement about four years ago and were spending six-month spells at sea. They had sailed to the Greek islands, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Oman, Yemen, India and the Maldives.

They could not make it through the dangerous waters of East Africa, where pirate attacks have spiked the last several years. Despite an international flotilla of warships and aircraft, pirates continue to prowl the Indian Ocean seemingly at will, pouncing on pleasure craft, fishing vessels and huge cargo ships using small skiffs, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Somali pirates still hold close to 500 hostages and more than 20 vessels. The pirates typically only release hostages for multimillion-dollar ransoms. But unlike the companies who own large transport ships, the Chandlers are far from rich. Paul Chandler has been identified in the British media as a retired construction site manager, while Rachel has been described as an economist.

Pirates had initially sought a $7 million ransom. The Chandler family said in a statement Sunday that during protracted discussions with pirates that it was “a difficult task” to convey that Paul and Rachel were “two retired people on a sailing trip on a small private yacht and not part of a major commercial enterprise.”

Repeated efforts to free the couple by the Somali diaspora, the weak Mogadishu-based government and Britain had failed over the last year until, the family said, “common sense finally prevailed.” The family said it would not comment on questions about payment to the pirates, so as not to encourage the capture of other private individuals.

Conflicting reports from Somali officials about the Chandlers’ release said there was either a $300,000 ransom for “expenses” or a $1 million ransom that the Somali diaspora helped pay. A spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office said the ministry wasn’t immediately able to comment on the release, but it has always insisted that the British government never pays ransom.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the Chandlers’ release “tremendous news.”

“Their long captivity is over at last,” he said. “I unreservedly condemn the actions of those that held the Chandlers for so long. Kidnapping is never justified.”

The pirates set the couple free about 4 a.m. Sunday, said Mohamed Aden, the leader of the government administration in Adado, a stifling hot region of central Somali near the Ethiopia border. When they arrived in Adado they were taken to a safe house, took a shower and changed clothes. They then took about a 90-minute nap, Aden said. When they awoke they had what he called a “British” breakfast of fried eggs.

The couple attended a ceremony with several dozen people seated in blue plastic chairs. Rachel Chandler wore a bright red dress and red scarf. Paul Chandler wore a mauve-colored short shirt and a green patterned sarong. Both appeared thin, suggesting they ate little while in the control of pirates in a sweltering region near the Ethiopia border.

“The community expressed their sorrow over their captivity and they told them that the pirates don’t represent all Somalis but they represent a fringe part of the community,” Aden told AP. “The Chandlers thanked the community in return and they said they are grateful for anyone who played a role in their release.”

In the Somali capital, the couple walked across the airport tarmac, smiling and thanking people. Paul Chandler had a large camera around his neck and was taking photos.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed met the two and said the government had “exerted every humanly possible effort to bring you back to your loved ones.”

Somalia, however, has been without a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Pirates, meanwhile, have made tens of millions of dollars there over the last several years, fueling a building boom in Somali neighborhoods of Nairobi and a spending spree on cars, women and guns in pirate towns.

The Chandlers were to get medical checkups in Nairobi and fly back to Britain shortly afterward. A statement from their family in Britain said that Paul and Rachel were in good spirits although tired and exhausted.

Abdi Mohamed Elmi, a Somali doctor who has regularly attended to the couple and was involved in efforts to free them, said the Chandlers will now need more specialized attention.

“They need counseling and rest to recover from the situation they have been living in for the last 13 months,” Elmi said. “But now they seem OK and were happy this morning. They had showers, changed clothes and had breakfast with us smiling.”

A serious attempt to free the Chandlers had been made in June, according to a Nairobi-based Western official. Roughly $450,000 was dropped from a plane to free the couple, but pirates had been negotiating with different groups of people, and the effort to free the couple fell through, said the official, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work.

International navies have taken a more aggressive approach this year to stop the pirates, and vessels often employ armed, private security on board. But the hijackings have persisted because the sea is so vast, and because piracy offers Somalis high pay in a country where few economic opportunities exist. (*)

 
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Suu Kyi's message to Myanmar's junta: 'Let's meet and talk'

Aung San Suu Kyi holds a sign reading "I love the public too" while addressing supporters outside her National League for Democracy party headquarters in Yangon November 14, 2010. The pro-democracy leader called for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar on Sunday and urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights and not lose heart, indicating she might pursue a political role. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun )

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November 15, 2010 YANGON, Myanmar  (KATAKAMI / NATION.COM.PK) — – Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions.
Suu Kyi’s first major speech since being freed from seven years of house arrest a day earlier left little doubt she would resume an influential political role in one of the world’s most isolated and oppressive countries.
“The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech,” she said to roaring cheers from thousands of supporters crammed into a cordoned-off street in front of her party’s headquarters. “Even if you are not political, politics will come to you.”
The 65-year-old Nobel peace laureate, who had lost none of her ability to rouse and mesmerize crowds, offered an olive branch to the military junta, saying she had no antagonism for those who kept her detained for 15 of the past 21 years.
Asked by a reporter what message she had for supreme leader Senior General Than Shwe, she replied, “let’s meet and talk.” The two last met in secret talks in 2002 at the encouragement of the United Nations.
Suu Kyi said she bore no grudge against those who had held her in detention for more than 15 of the last 21 years, adding that she had been well-treated.
“I hope they (the military) won’t feel threatened by me. Popularity is something that comes and goes. I don’t think that anyone should feel threatened by it,” she said.
Suu Kyi thanked her well-wishers and asked them to pray for those still imprisoned by the junta. Human rights groups say the government holds more than 2,200 political prisoners.
‘Stand up for what is right’
The address, given in an informal style in contrast to the usual stuffy military speeches that dominate state media, illustrated the strength of Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy voice at a critical time, just a week after an election widely condemned as rigged to prolong military power behind a facade of democracy.
“You have to stand up for what is right,” Suu Kyi added, urging supporters to be more politically assertive in the former British colony formerly known as Burma, where the army controls nearly every facet of life. “A one woman show is not a democracy.”
Later, speaking with reporters, she declined to comment directly on whether she would urge the West to roll back sanctions that many say hurt ordinary people by allowing the junta to monopolize the country’s resource-rich economy.

 
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Photostream : Remembrance Day 2010 at London's Cenotaph war memorial

Queen Elizabeth II waits to lay a wreath as Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh look on at the Cenotaph during Remembrance Sunday in Whitehall, on November 14, 2010 in London, England. Remembrance Sunday tributes were carried out across the nation to pay respects to all who those who lost their lives in current and past conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) walks in front of Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron (2nd R) Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (3rd R) and Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband (L) during the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London, on November 14, 2010. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II prepares to lay a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London, on November 14, 2010. It marks the armistice to end the First World War. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II lays a wreath on the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London, on November 14, 2010. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Prime David Cameron (R) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attend the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, in central London November 14, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth )

Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron lays a wreath on the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London, on November 14, 2010. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Samantha Cameron (R), wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron (not pictured) and his mother Mary Cameron (L) attend the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London, on November 14, 2010. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

 
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Photostream : Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, left, and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin lighting candles during their visit in golden-domed “Alexander Nevski” cathedral in Sofia, Saturday, Nov. 13 2010. Putin is in Bulgaria on a one day working visit. (Getty Images / AP Photo/ Bulgarian Government Press Office/Handout)
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borisov (L) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin look at a box containing bones, believed to be the relics of John the Baptist, during their visit in golden-domed “Alexander Nevski” cathedral in Sofia November 13, 2010. Putin is in Bulgaria on a one day working visit. Bulgaria’s main Orthodox cathedral displayed on Friday jaw and arm bones and a tooth said to be relics of John the Baptist. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Bulgarian Government Press Office/Handout )
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin kisses a religious icon as he visits the Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia, November 13, 2010. Putin is in Bulgaria on a one day working visit. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Alexey Nikolsky / Ria Novosti/Pool )Bulgaria’s President Georgi Parvanov (R) and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greet before their meeting in Sofia November 13, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov )
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borisov reacts as Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) hugs a Bulgarian shepherd dog presented by Borisov as a gift in Sofia, November 13, 2010. Putin is in Bulgaria on one day working visit. (Getty Images / REUTERS / Oleg Popov )
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hugs a Bulgarian shepherd dog, a present from his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov after their press conference in Sofia on November 13, 2010. Bulgaria’s state energy holding BEH and Russian gas giant Gazprom set up on Saturday a joint venture to build and operate the Bulgarian stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline from Russia to southern Europe. (Getty Images / AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV )
 
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