Somali pirates who seized four cruising sailors on June 23 – a German couple, their son and a French Skipper – have now upped their demands to US$2 million.
Hostages taken into the mountains of breakaway state of Somaliland
The four sailors, who had been sailing from Egypt to Thailand, are being held in a camp in the breakaway state of Somaliland. Unconfirmed reports from Africa identify the German yacht as the Rockall, the sailors as M. Sabine and K. Juergen.
Sailors have no chance against speed boats in the Gulf of Aden, which is only 75nm wide at its narrowest point. When pirates discovered the German yacht Rockall off the coast of Somalia on 23 June, an uneven race started. Two speedboats captured the sailing boat.
The pirates left the yacht near Laasgoray and retreated into the hinterland, the border area between Somaliland and Puntland. Investigators assume that the kidnappers have a camp near a place called Badnan, in which the two Germans have since been held captive, together with the skipper of the Rockall, who is French. This is no-man's-land, where clans, militias, pirates, and semi-autonomous provincial governments rule - anyone, except the state.
Somaliland - piracy rampant
According to a Somali elder, while the couple are in good health and are being treated well, the man suffers from diabetes and has not had access to insulin for several days. The Somaliland elder who said he had visited the family also said he was negotiating with the pirates who had captured them.
He urged restraint from authorities in Somaliland and neighbouring Somali state of Puntland who have troops massed on their border, 10km (6 miles) from where the hostages are being held.
The ruling coalition of Germany seems paralysed by deadlocked political and constitutional argument, and there is also growing concern about the fate of the crew of a kidnapped German cargo ship, the MV Lehmann Timber. The 121-meter-long freighter of a German shipping company with a crew of 15 and a load of steel on board has been in the hands of pirates for nearly five weeks now. According to reports the several of the crew are sick, and they are short of both food and water.
Piracy became an even hotter topic than usual last month when a luxury French yacht was captured in April, but freed on payment of a ransom, after which six of the pirates were captured by French troops. Germany does not seem capable of such quick action, even though the United Nations Security Council recently approved incursions into Somali waters to curb piracy, which the weak transitional government is powerless to prevent.