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British Couple Kidnapped By Pirates Arrive Home


British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler who were released by the Somali pirates speak during a press conference at the presidential palace in Mogadishu Somalia, 14 Nov 2010, accompanied by Somali prime minister Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, left and Parliamen

British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler who were released by the Somali pirates speak during a press conference at the presidential palace in Mogadishu Somalia, 14 Nov 2010, accompanied by Somali prime minister Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed, left and Parliamen

A British couple who were kidnapped by Somali pirates over a year ago landed home in Britain Tuesday evening.

Rachel and Paul Chandler landed on British soil after a long and arduous 13 months.

The couple was released on Sunday after a ransom was reportedly paid, in part with the help of Britain's Somali community.

The Chandlers were kidnapped near the Seychelles over a year ago. They had retired early and spent most of their savings to buy a yacht in order to sail around the world.

That dream ended when they were attacked by Somali pirates. Over the past year they have lived in Somalia's harsh heat, at times forcefully separated and, they say, beaten.

Roger Middleton is a piracy expert with the London-based research group Chatham House.

He says their experience has been unusually grueling. "This is the longest case of Somali piracy hostage taking that we've come across and I think particularly difficult for the Chandlers because they have been held on their own. It's just two of them, sometimes they have been held separately, so it is not the kind of community support that you have if you are on a large merchant ship where there's 15 or 20 of you," he said.

It's believed nearly $1 million was paid for their release.

But normally pirates capture major transport ships and get paid multi-million dollar ransoms for their release.

Middleton says the pirates were initially expecting much more cash for their release. "The only reason they have been held for so long is because they have not been able to raise the funds for their release more quickly. Normally, of course, the people who are hijacked have a large multi-national company behind them who are able to raise $1million, not easily but, relatively easily. If you are a retired couple sailing around the world on your dream holiday you don't have those kinds of funds readily available," he said.

Ransoms, says Middleton, are one of Somalia's biggest earners. "For aid workers, for journalists, for business people inside Somalia, hostage taking is a very real risk and there's a whole sort of hostage taking industry in Somalia. Of course, the most high profile and profitable element of that is what happens on the sea. Pirates are now taking in well over $100 million a year, so this is an incredibly profitable business they're engaged in," he said.

Somali pirates are still holding around 500 hostages. But for the Chandlers, at least, the nightmare is over.

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