German captives set free by Somali pirates after 41 days

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Two German cruising sailors were freed Sunday after 41 days in captivity in Somalia and were airlifted to Kenya, according to a report in Sail-World.com.

However, maritime officials believe an unidentified yacht transiting in the Gulf of Aden Aug. 8 between Yemen and Somalia might have been taken hostage.

There was no mention in the reports of the nationality of the captors who might have taken the boat, but the Yemen government has since increased surveillance in its own waters, and they reportedly believe them to be Somalis.

The German sailors, who had been held captive since June 23, will be flying to Germany next week from Kenya. Officials say the gunmen abandoned their boat and disappeared into the mountains, according to the report.

“The couple complained a lot that they were harassed,” said Andrew Mwangura, East African Coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), in the report. “It was not clear if the full ransom had been paid to free the hostages from the captors’ mountain stronghold, although initial reports indicate that some big money exchanged hands.”

The German couple was kidnapped while cruising the Gulf of Aden on a trip from Egypt to Thailand. The intruders ransacked their vessel and then took them to northern Somalia by powerboat. Attacks against fishing boats, cargo ships and yachts off Somalia’s coast have surged in recent months, and foreigners are frequent targets because they can be exchanged for large ransoms. There were 25 boats seized last year on Somalia’s coastline, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Though the UN Security Council voted in June to allow countries to send warships to combat the pirates, countries have been slow to take up the opportunity, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis

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