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Terrorism & Security

Somali pirates release British couple held for more than a year

Paul and Rachel Chandler were kidnapped as they slept on their yacht 800 miles off the East African coast more than a year ago. Their 388-day ordeal makes the British couple the longest-held former captives of Somali pirates.

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The pirates originally asked for 4 million British pounds ransom (about $6.5 million), though, as the Daily Telegraph notes, the family repeatedly said that they were not rich and could not afford that.

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But Al Jazeera reports that sources privy to the secret negotiations for their release said that about $300,000 was paid on Saturday, bringing the estimated total paid over time to between an $800,000 and $1 million.

"Negotiations then collapsed because the pirates were asking up to $7 million before they released the Chandlers," said Al Jazeera correspondent Mohammed Adow in Nairobi. "What we are hearing about the $300,000 paid to the pirates yesterday evening is that it was contributed by wellwishers, including the Somali community in London."

AFP reports that, based on discussions with "Somali elders and sources close to the tortuous negotiations that led to [the Chandlers'] release," the ransom payment totaled at least $750,000.

The British government, for its part, has a policy to not pay ransom.

"The government will not make substantive concessions for hostage takers, including the payments of ransom," the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said in a statement, according to CNN.

Aside from the fresh ransom payment, there may have been other factors that contributed to the Chandlers being released now.

Al Jazeera reports that the pirates likely wanted to get the captives off of their hands after the long and costly ordeal. "On the one hand, you had [Al Qaeda-linked] Al Shabab fighters closing in on the captors, and on the other hand, the cost of securing and feeding the Chandlers was mounting," Maritime Security Consultant Ali Omar Ahmed told Al Jazeera.

The news agency adds that the payment of ransom could embolden pirates to target more Western individuals, in addition to the more than 400 maritime crew members they are already holding.

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