Pirate: Danes will die if rescue tried

2011-03-01 22:42

Copenhagen - Any attempt to rescue a Danish family captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean will result their deaths - just like the four American sailors slain by their captors last week, a Somali pirate warned on Tuesday.

Maritime experts said the Danes - a couple with three teenage children aged 12 to 16 - placed themselves in grave danger by sailing their boat ING into pirate-infested waters off Somalia's lawless coast despite warnings from naval forces struggling to police the area.

The family was captured on Thursday by pirates along with two Danish adult crew members after sending a distress signal from their sailing boat, the Danish government said, adding it was doing "everything in our power" to help them.

Abdullahi Mohamed, a pirate who told The Associated Press he has ties to the gang holding the Danish family, said they will be killed if any rescue operation was carried out. He specifically referred to the killings last week of four American hostages captured by pirates on their yacht.

Mohamed has provided reliable information to AP in the past on piracy.

The American deaths were a game-changer in the world of piracy. Somali pirates have captured hundreds of ships and thousands of crew members over the years - right now they have 660 hostages and some 30 vessels.

But virtually all the hostages have been released unharmed after pirates negotiated multimillion-dollar ransoms for them and their ships.

Companies paid the ransoms with insurance money and rarely attempted rescue missions to ensure the safety of their employees. If a ship's owner was unable to pay the amount demanded, pirates would keep the boat and use it to stalk other vessels on the high seas.

Large ransom

Mohamed said pirates were discussing how much ransom to demand for the Danish hostages, and added that investors backing the pirate gang were angling for a large sum.

A British sailing couple was released in November after more than a year in captivity. Reports varied how much was paid for their release, but it was believed to be around $1 million. Pirates are now commanding roughly $5 million per hijacked ship.

The Danish family knew about the hijacking of the American yacht, according to a travel blog in which they chronicled their round-the-world journey that began in 2009. It was not clear, however, if they knew about the Americans' deaths.

"Of course, we talked quite a lot about it [the American hijacking] but this is far over thousands of kilometres away and the Arabian Sea that we sail in is the size of Europe," the family said a February 20 posting on their blog.

Two days later, the Americans were killed.

The Danish family's last posting on February 23 - a day before their own hijacking - only said their journey was uneventful and "we have NOT been boarded by pirates".

The blog identified the family as Jan Quist Johansen, his wife Birgit Marie Johansen, their sons Rune and Hjalte and their daughter Naja. They are from Kalundborg, 120km west of Copenhagen.

Dangerous waterways

The chair of the Kalundborg yacht club, Ole Meridin Petersen, confirmed their names to The Associated Press. He called them "experienced sailors" and said they were planning to enter the Mediterranean from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal and get home by August.

That route would take the family through the Gulf of Aden, one of the most dangerous waterways in the world in terms of piracy.

The Johansens had been sending daily position and status updates by e-mail since February 17 to the British Royal Navy's UK Maritime Trade Operations, which acts as a liaison for ships travelling through waters threatened by pirates, said Wing Cmdr Paddy O'Kennedy, a spokesperson for the European Union's anti-piracy force.

He said the EU Naval Force had written an open letter to European governments, yachting organizations and magazines warning of the dangers of sailing through the area threatened by pirates.

"We did everything we possibly could to advise the yachting fraternity of the danger," O'Kennedy said. "They (the family) were aware of the risks they were about to take."

The EU force and warships from other nations do not provide escorts for individual ships, although they do patrol a maritime corridor that ships are urged to stick to. Reporting a daily position, like the Johansens did, might give a warship a slightly quicker reaction time but even then that doesn't mean help could reach the boat under attack in time, he said.

"Even travelling in groups is not a protection for yachts. It's just a bigger target for the pirates," O'Kennedy said. "When you're on a yacht, it can take seconds from when [pirates] are seen to when they're on board."

Totally insane

Per Gullestrup, head of Danish shipowner Clipper, said it was "totally insane" for a yacht to sail on its own into waters where much bigger commercial ships often travel in convoys and hire armed guards for protection against pirates.

"They sailed right into the pirates' arms," said Gullestrup, whose company owns a cargo ship that was held by Somali pirates for more than two months in 2009.

Since 2008, there have been at least nine hijackings of private yachts in the region, said Hans Tino Hansen, who runs a company specializing in maritime security.

"Sailing boats and small private yachts are very difficult or impossible to secure against pirate attacks due to their low speed and low freeboard," Hansen said.

In the blog, family members wrote that they saw counter-piracy patrol planes flying overhead. "It is reassuring that they look after us," a February 20 post said. A day earlier, the family blogged they had drawn up "a piracy plan for who does what if we are attacked".

Somali pirates have extended their range east and south after increased naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

The pirates have rarely captured families and children, but a 3-year-old boy was aboard a French yacht seized in 2009. French navy commandos attempted a rescue, but two pirates and the boy's father were killed in the operation. Four French citizens were freed, including the child.

Denmark's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday advised citizens against travelling in sailing boats in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the northwestern Indian Ocean.

- AP

Read more on:    eu  |  denmark  |  somalia  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.