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South Africans Freed From Somali Pirates

  • VOA News

Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari at news conference with Somali Foreign Minister Abdulahi Haji Hassan, left, and Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse, Mogadishu, June 21, 2012.

Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari at news conference with Somali Foreign Minister Abdulahi Haji Hassan, left, and Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse, Mogadishu, June 21, 2012.

Two South Africans kidnapped 20 months ago by pirates off the Somali coast have been freed.

Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse told reporters Thursday the pair was rescued by security forces during an early morning raid.

However, a security source said that a ransom was paid to win their release.

The couple, Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, had been held hostage since October 2010, when Somali pirates hijacked their yacht off the southeastern coast of Africa.

The two appeared with Somali officials during a press conference in Mogadishu. Pelizzari, who appeared emotional, thanked the Somali people.

"All I can say is thank you for the support and giving us our freedom," he said. "I thank the Somali people, the beautiful country. Please open your hospitality to the world. It's dawn. It's a new age."

The captors originally demanded a ransom of $10 million for the release of the couple.

Somalia-based pirates have hijacked dozens of ships traveling near the Horn of Africa in the past five years and collected hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom.

The number of successful hijackings has declined over the past year, as foreign naval forces patrol the coastline more closely and more ships take protective measures, including having armed guards on board.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.
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