Pirates threaten to kill Danish family of 5 (UPDATES)


A French Navy helicopter chases a boat carrying suspected Somali pirates off the French warship Le Nivose on May 3, 2009.


Pierre Verdy

Pirates holding three Danish children and their parents after hijacking their yacht have reportedly said they will kill them if any rescue attempt is made.

Pirates captured the sailboat, with a family including three children aged 12 to 16 and two crew on board, last week, the Denmark's government said. The yacht was crossing the Indian Ocean and reportedly heading for Somalia as part of a world tour.

Somalian Abdullahi Mohamed said that he had ties with the gang holding the group and that any attack against the pirates would result in the deaths of the hostages, according to the UK Press Association. He then referred to the killings last week of four American hostages taken captive by pirates on their yacht, the SV Quest, off the coast of Oman.

The Danish ship sent a distress signal on Thursday, two days after Somali pirates killed the four Americans.

This is thought to be the first time pirates have taken children hostage. Denmark on Tuesday urged recreational sailors to avoid the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the north-western section of the Indian Ocean due to the risk of pirates.

"It is almost unbearable to think that there are children involved, and I can only sharply denounce the pirates' actions," said Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen. She said she was "deeply concerned" about the situation.

After the attack on the Quest, GlobalPost senior correspondent Tristan McConnell reported that U.S. military negotiations to secure the release of the two American couples were under way when gunfire broke out aboard the 58-foot yacht.

American soldiers deployed from a nearby warship responded to the shooting and fought their way aboard the Quest killing two pirates and capturing 13 others, McConnell reported. The remains of two other pirates who had died earlier were also found on board the boat.

The Americans were too badly injured to survive when U.S. forces finally reached them.

Piracy has become common off the Horn of Africa, and ransoms have become a main source of revenue for young men who come from Somalia, a country that has not had a functioning government in decades. The pirates usually attack shipping vessels and not family yachts.

-- Hanna Ingber Win

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