According to previously reliable sources, Somali pirates holding two South African cruising sailors have demanded a $10 million ransom from the South African government.
This was confirmed by the director of the East African Seafarer's Assistance program in Mombasa, Andrew Mwangura, who has previously always been reliable in his reportage of piracy incident situations. According to South Africa's Mercury, they were also given this information by a source close to the family of one of the abducted sailors.
Cruising couple Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz had left their own boat, on which they lived, to assist Peter Eldridge sail his yacht Choizil south along the eastern coast of Africa. They were hijacked on 1st November, and were forcibly sailed north again. When the engine seized and the yacht ran aground, the Somali pirates attempted to take the three on land. Skipper Eldridge refused to disembark, and was left on board. He then jumped overboard and was rescued by a Dutch warship. Pelizzari and Calitz were taken inland in Somalia and little has been heard of them since, until this recent demand.
The pirates have reportedly also said that unless the ransom is paid, they will 'make and example' of their hostages.
When phoned for comment on Thursday regarding the ransom, a relative of Pelizzari did not wish to comment. However, the relative did say that the family had written to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation asking them for advice on what to do, and how to take the issue forward. The department then called the family to Pretoria to discuss it.
This meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, the same day the department is due to hold a media briefing on the situation.
Andrew Mwangura also commented that all hostage negotiations were currently 'on hold' because the pirates were 'jumpy' and 'under pressure', because currently there was much military action in the area, which is crisscrossed with competing powers, some of them Islamic militants, not pirates.
Mwangura also confirmed that the pirates did not know initially that Pelizzari and Calitz were South African, as Pelizzari is of Italian descent and Calitz of English descent. However, when they found out 'it maybe complicated their mission'.
He added that there was the possibility that the $10 million ransom might be dropped to $7 million or even $6 million.