NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Somali-born UK national said he embarked on dangerous talks to help free a British couple because he was ashamed that pirates from his clan had kidnapped the pair and feared their deaths would tarnish Somalia’s image.
Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye, who said that a gun was pointed at him several times during negotiations, would not disclose whether a ransom had been paid for the couple’s release. However, he said the Somali president’s office had reimbursed the pirates for money spent on hotels and fuel.
During negotiations on Paul and Rachel Chandler’s release he said he shuttled between his London home and his native Adado in central Somalia pleading to the pirates to let the couple go.
“It was shameful that two elderly British citizens were in captivity by pirates in my clan,” the 56-year-old businessman told Reuters at his hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.
“My children inspired me to go back to Somalia and talk to the pirates to release the British. They were born and grew up in Britain so it was embarrassing for my family that Somali pirates were attacking people going about their business in the ocean,” he said.
Kadiye met other Somalis in Britain and they agreed to support him in the negotiations that spanned six months.
Paul Chandler, 60, and his wife Rachel, 56, were released on Sunday more than a year after pirates hijacked their yacht off the east African coast. The couple from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in southeast England, had embarked on their voyage when they retired.
He said Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed had encouraged the negotiators but did not elaborate.
“The President encouraged us and played a very big role in the release of the Chandlers, and made our efforts fruitful,” he said.
The main challenge was negotiating with a gang made up mostly of young men. Kadiye said he knew some of their fathers because they belonged to the same clan.
The gang’s constant migration to avoid a possible rescue mission was also a set back because the negotiating team had to look for the pirates whenever they wanted talks.
Kadiye said his life, and that of other clan elders taking part in the negotiations, were constantly at risk.
“Several times they pointed a gun at me but thankfully, never shot,” he said.
The pirates kidnapped the couple on October 23 last year after hijacking their 38-foot yacht Lynn Rival in the Indian Ocean off the Seychelles. Paul said that at no time during their captivity did they feel their lives were in danger.
“It would have been embarrassing for us if the pirates killed them,” Kadiye said.