UK

Kidnapped Chandlers plead for David Cameron to act

A British couple held hostage by Somali pirates have urged UK Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify whether his government will seek their release.

Paul Chandler, 60, and Rachel Chandler, 56, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were kidnapped while sailing in the Indian Ocean in October.

In an interview broadcast on ITV News, Mr Chandler said they "desperately needed" the PM to make a statement.

The Foreign Office said it had a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers.

The pair spoke to a Somali journalist at the weekend, ITV News reported, adding that the kidnappers had not benefited financially from the interview.

Mr Chandler offered his congratulations to the new prime minister, but urged him to act.

Raised hopes

"As new prime minister, we desperately need him to make a definitive public statement of the government's attitude to us," Mr Chandler said.

"If the government is not prepared to help, then they must say so, because the gangsters' expectations and hopes have been raised at the thought of a new government and there might be a different approach."

The Foreign Office said the British government's policy of "not making or facilitating substantive concessions to hostage-takers, including the payment of ransoms, is long-standing and clear".

A spokesman said: "This has been the policy of successive governments and has not changed. Our thoughts are with their families on the release of this video, and our consular officials are in close touch with them.

"We again urge those holding Paul and Rachel to release them safely, immediately and unconditionally."

'Naive' captors

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the captors were "rather naively thinking" that a new government in the UK would mean a new policy towards paying the ransom.

He also said that the captors "cannot get it into their heads" that the Chandlers are not wealthy, nor was a big company likely to pay the ransom as sometimes happened for merchant shipping vessels and crews.

The couple said they had been kept apart for almost 100 days of their captivity.

Previously the couple, married for 30 years, have spoken of the "torture" and "torment" of not being held together.

In an interview in March, they said they had been whipped, and Mrs Chandler had been hit with a rifle butt.

Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised their case when he met Somali President Sharif Ahmed in the UK in March.

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