Kidnapping of Chandlers was 'mistake' by pirates

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Image caption,
Rachel and Paul Chandler arrived back at Heathrow airport on Tuesday

The kidnapping of British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler by Somali pirates was a mistake, according to a man claiming to speak for the pirates.

Ali Gedow said the kidnappers set out to capture a ship, not people, and that the Chandlers turned out to be too poor to pay the ransom demand.

The couple from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were freed on Sunday, 13 months after they were captured off the Seychelles.

The arrived back in the UK on Tuesday to be reunited with friends and family.

Later they were debriefed by officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The retired couple were captured when their yacht was boarded off the Seychelles on 23 October 2009.

Earlier this year their captors threatened to kill them if their demands for $7m (£4.4m) were not met.

The sum paid for their eventual freedom is thought to have been nearly $1m (£620,000).

Negotiations took place involving Somali intermediaries and a firm of consultants hired by the Chandlers' relatives in Britain.

Speaking to the BBC from Somalia, Mr Gedow, who claims to speak for the pirates, said they were unhappy with the ransom amount paid but realised the Chandler family could not meet the amount originally demanded.

"They (the pirates) do not target people because they don't find enough money - what they want is huge ships," he told BBC South East Today.

"Maybe sometimes they accidentally find some people."

He admitted that the kidnap of Mr and Mrs Chandler had been a mistake.

"It was a mistake, because they were not looking for the Chandlers, they were looking for a ship. But they saw this small boat drifting."

He said piracy was the only way for the kidnappers to survive in a country without an effective government since 1991.

"There is no job...the only law we have is a gun. What can we eat, there is not enough fish in our boats...what can we do?"

Asked for the pirates' reaction now the Chandlers were back home, he said they were thankful.

"We've taken our money and that was enough," he said.

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