MOGADISHU // Somali pirates holding two Britons captive in the Indian Ocean have transferred them to another vessel and said on Thursday that they planned to keep them on-board off the Somali mainland. Paul and Rachel Chandler, both in their 50s, had left the Seychelles on their 38-foot yacht Lynn Rival and were believed to be sailing to Tanzania when they were hijacked on October 23. "After we understood the British navy might attack us, we took the hostages off the yacht into the Singaporean ship to bring them safely here," a pirate called Hassan told Reuters by telephone from the coastal town of Haradheere.
"They are close to Haradheere. We will be holding them in the Singaporean ship along with that ship's crew. We decided not to take them to shore. They are exhausted and they need rest." Hassan was referring to a Singaporean container ship, the Kota Wajar, which was seized by Somali gunmen earlier this month along with its 21 crew. Earlier on Thursday, the European naval force said a Spanish military helicopter had spotted the hijacked yacht. A spokesman for the force said there was no information on the couple.
"They were not on board the yacht, no one was," the spokesman said. "That would indicate they have been transferred to another vessel. We do not have any reason to believe that they have been harmed." The Seychelles coastguard sent aircraft to search for the Chandlers' yacht after receiving a distress signal on Friday, while naval forces from the Nato alliance, European Union and United States had also joined the search. *Reuters