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Danish yacht with three kids, four adults, seajacked as Rally mourns

by Nancy Knudsen on 1 Mar 2011
Ing crew the Johansen family kidnapped by Somali pirates - now there are death threats .. .

It was happening while 65 cruising sailors, members of the Blue Water Rally and others, were holding a Memorial service in Salalah for the four American sailors aboard Quest recently murdered by Somali pirates.

Denmark's foreign ministry has confirmed the appalling news that a Danish family of five and their two crew, identified as Jan Quist Johansen, his wife, Birgit Marie Johansen, and their sons, Rune and Hjalte, and daughter, Naja, ages 12 to 16, travelling on sailing vessel Ing, have been seajacked by pirates along the same route as the Quest was travelling.


As US and local dignitaries accompanied the gathered cruising sailors in a softly touching ceremony, they were unaware that across the waters Somali pirates had, for the first time in the long - and now bloody - history of piracy, taken children as hostages and were even then heading towards the coast of Somalia.

The yacht sent a distress signal on the 24th February, two days after the murder on the Quest, but the news has been embargoed because of the necessity to inform families. According to piracy watch and environmental organisation www.ecoterra.org!Ecoterra, the attack happened in the southern Arabian Sea (see position in the image), so they were actually positioned to the south west of the position where the Quest was seajacked.

This seajacking means that there are now nine Danes in Somali pirates' hands, as two other Danes from the abandoned MV Leopard are still hostages of one of the Somali gangs. The yacht is being shadowed by a Danish warship and is heading for Somalia.

As expected, Somali pirates are now capitalising on the shock generated by the killing of the four Americans who had been seajacked. Abdullahi Mohamed, a pirate who said he has ties to the gang holding the Danes, said they will be killed if any rescue was attempted.

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said she was 'deeply concerned' about the situation and expressed her sympathies to the Danes on the boat and their relatives.

'It is almost unbearable to think that there are children involved and I can only sharply denounce the pirates' actions,' Espersen said.

Government officials will do 'everything in our power' to help the Danes, she said, but would not be able to release detailed information about their efforts publicly, 'since experience shows that it doesn't help in resolving the case.'

The last land that the family had touched in their voyage around the world was Makunudhoo atoll in the Maldives, where they had entered the lagoon and spent a few days snorkelling and relaxing. They left there and checked out at Uligan on the 19th February, and had a fast passage towards the entry to the Red Sea. Their last log entry, on the 23rd reads a cryptic 'Snork Phew zzzzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzz'.

They had appeared confident, in spite of the recent pirate attacks. One of their last entries reads: We have updated our disaster plan, made pirate plan for who does what if we are attacked, and we send every day heading. and status of the armed striker UMKTO and various executives who are so kind as to follow us and finally we made the man overboard drills when we had the anchor.

And now we will just enjoy the trip, because fortunately, despite the many pirate attacks on cargo ships and general great fear among sailors, there have never been any attacks on sail boats which have followed the recommended route.



Pirates now have the 'upper hand':

Pirates are sending a distinct message recently, as their activities, once so commercial, take an ugly turn. The message they send is that if a rescue is attempted they will immediately kill the hostages.

Apart from the Quest murder, about which details are not clear, this was demonstrated recently with the killings of two seized Filipino crewmen when a rescue was attempted.

However, in a lengthy gun battle in the Arabian Sea last month South Korean commandos stormed a pirated ship, the Samho Jewelry, killing eight pirates, capturing five others and freeing all the crew safely, even though the Captain was shot in the stomach during the action.

The European Union naval force, Navfor, which patrols the area, is now under mounting pressure to take similar action. But Navfor's spokesman, Wing Commander Paddy O'Kennedy, says it isn't so easy. Storming seized ships, he reiterated after the latest seajacking, pust the lives of hostage crew members at risk.

'At the moment our policy is that the safety of the hostages comes first,' he said. 'When you use the military, people get hurt, that's a fact.

'When you get close to ships that have been pirated... they put the crew on deck, they will put a gun against their head, and that's a pretty strong message for us to stay away.'

This is grim news for the latest crop of cruising sailors to be kidnapped, and another message to future intending sailors to avoid the area altogether.
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