Relatives of the British couple held hostage by Somali pirates have welcomed reports that they could soon be released.
Paul Chandler and his wife Rachel, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured while sailing from the Seychelles towards Tanzania in October last year.
Somali deputy parliamentary speaker Mohamed Omar Dalha said he was hopeful they would be freed within two weeks. He said that communities inside and outside the war-ravaged country have been working to negotiate their unconditional release.
Stephen Collett – Mrs Chandler’s brother – refused to be drawn on any details of the hoped-for release but said he was “pleased” by the news. He has been in contact with the pirates via local broadcasters and the Foreign Office, who have been working towards their release.
The Chandlers are among about 130 sailors held hostage in Somalia.
In a telephone interview with a Somali television station, Mrs Chandler, who has recently appeared gaunt in pictures, said: “I’m obviously very tormented and very, very lonely and worried.” Meanwhile, Mr Chandler described their forced partition as “torture”.
The British Government has refused to pay a ransom for the couple and called for their immediate release. The Somali pirates have previously demanded a “seven million dollars” (£4.6 million) ransom for their safe release.
In a phone call translated by the BBC, one of the pirates said: “If they do not harm us, we will not harm them – we only need a little amount of seven million dollars.”
Mr Chandler, 59, and his wife, 55, were captured when armed men boarded their yacht as they slept.
It has since emerged that the crew of a Royal Navy vessel was forced to watch the Chandlers being kidnapped by pirates but military officials have insisted that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker Wave Knight, carrying 75 merchant seamen and 25 Royal Navy sailors, could not have acted without endangering the lives of the couple.