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October 30, 2009

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Pirates boarded as I slept: UK sailor

A BRITISH man kidnapped by Somali pirates while vacationing on a yacht with his wife said in an interview released yesterday that the sea bandits had crept aboard with guns while he was asleep and demanded money.

Paul Chandler told Britain's ITV News that he and his wife were being held aboard a container ship anchored about 1.6 kilometers from the Somali coast.

A fisherman said he saw two boats carrying eight pirates and a white couple that had arrived in the village of Ceel Huur.

"They kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat," Chandler said in the interview, but the satellite phone connection was lost before he could answer how the couple were being treated.

Dahir Dabadhahan said a convoy of around 30 other pirates in six luxury vehicles met the group in front of fishermen preparing their boats of the day, he said.

Yacht retrieved

"The pirates opened fire into the air, waving us to move away," he said.

Ceel Huur is just north of a notorious pirate stronghold in the town of Haradhere.

Earlier yesterday, the British navy found the couple's empty yacht in international waters.

Warships have been searching for Paul and Rachel Chandler since their yacht, the Lynn Rival, sent out a distress signal last Friday.

Relatives of the British couple pleaded for their release and said the pirates had targeted the wrong people.

"They are not a wealthy couple. They just wanted to take early retirement, to take a boat and to see more of the world," said Paul Chandler's sister, Jill Marshment, 69, of Bredon.

The couple, who have been married for 28 years, took early retirement about three years ago and have spent several six-month spells at sea. Their voyages - which have taken them to the Greek islands, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Oman, Yemen, India, the Maldives and the Seychelles - have been chronicled on a blog.

Also yesterday, pirates hijacked a Thai fishing vessel north of the Seychelles islands, the European Union Naval Force said.


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