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November 8, 2010

Yachtsman rescued from Somali pirates

A South African yachtsman reportedly murdered by Somali pirates is not dead, but has been rescued by Eu Navfor.

Illustrating the dubious reliability of stories from Somali sources, various media reports yesterday quoted eyewitnesses as saying that a South African had been shot and had died instantly when he refused to leave a hijacked yacht near the town of Barawe on the southern Somali coastline . The pirates then took two people, described by the witnesses as a woman and a boy, to a jungle hiding place. Some stories quoted a spokesman for Al Shabaab, which has been linked with Al Qaeda, as saying the the man's body had been taken to a morgue.

The story was sufficiently plausible that South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement saying that it "would like to confirm that the deceased person in a Somali hospital who is alleged to have been killed by the Somali pirates, as the media reports purport, is not a South African citizen. We are, however, with our international partners in Somalia, investigating the identity of the other two kidnaped individuals who are thought to be South African citizens. We will communicate more information as soon as our investigations are concluded."

Here's what actually happened according to Eu Navfor.

A South African yachtsman, who escaped capture by pirates when he refused to cooperate with them, was safely taken on board an Eu Navfor warship yesterday.

His yacht had been located by the Eu Navfor warship FS Floreal on November 6, when it was discovered to be sailing suspiciously close to shore. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the yacht, including a flypast by the ship's helicopter, no answer was received and the French warship launched her boarding team to investigate further.

Upon approaching, the team came under fire from the yacht and a Mayday call was received making it clear that pirates were on board and that the crew of three were under their control.

The FS FLOREAL remained in the vicinity of the pirated vessel. The yacht eventually ran aground near the shore during the early morning of November. As a result of the grounding, the pirates attempted to remove the three crew members ashore. The South African skipper of the yacht refused to leave his vessel and the pirates left with the remaining two crew members as hostages.

Once the pirates had left the yacht, the skipper was rescued by the Eu Navfor warship FS Floreal. He is confirmed as being safe and is currently on board another Eu Navfor warship.

The whereabouts of the other crew members is currently unknown, despite a comprehensive search by an EU NAVFOR helicopter.


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