Mogadishu: Somalia`s embattled
Western-backed government claimed it contributed to the
release of a British couple freed today more than a year after
being captured by pirates.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were freed by pirates
earlier Sunday, flew from the central town of Adado to
Mogadishu, where they were greeted by top government officials
during a stopover on their way home.
"The Somali government and Somali people are pleased
that they got their freedom," newly appointed Prime Minister,
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, said in a statement issued by the
"The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia
exerted every humanly possible effort to bring you back to
your loved ones and notwithstanding what you went through, at
last you are free and we are happy," he said.
Instead of flying directly from Adado to the safety of
Nairobi, the British couple, who were kidnapped 388 days ago,
were now set to leave the country of their ordeal from
war-torn Mogadishu, one of the world`s most dangerous cities.
The Chandlers were met off the plane by Mohamed, as
well as the parliament speaker and other top officials, before
being whisked away to the presidential palace in an African
Union armoured vehicle.
The Western-backed TFG controls only a few blocks in
the capital, where it battles al Qaeda-inspired insurgents
almost daily, and wields virtually no influence in the areas
where the pirates operate.
"Many would surely be asking how this freedom came
about, that is not for us to dwell on as we are working to
free others, our objective was to win their freedom and we are
delighted they are free," Mohamed said in the statement.
President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who is out of Somalia
to perform the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, was also quoted in
the statement as expressing his satisfaction at the Chandlers`
"We are deeply sorry that pirates who are Somalis took
their freedom, but I also know many brave Somalis worked
assiduously and continuously to free the Chandlers -- we
salute them," Sharif said.
Some Somalis held demonstrations of support for the
Chandlers during their captivity and members of the diaspora
and the local community are believed to have contributed to
the ransom paid to the pirates.
According to elders and sources close to the tortuous
negotiations that led to the Chandlers` release, at least USD
750,000 were paid.