Africa

Somalia hostages: Pirates 'show Danes to reporter'

An armed Somali pirate (archive image)
Image caption Somali pirates usually target cargo vessels for the ransoms often paid out by shipping firms

A Danish newspaper says that one of its reporters has met the Danish family being held hostage by Somali pirates and they seem to be well.

An unnamed Ekstra Bladet reporter is said to have been allowed to visit the family of five and their two crew members aboard a hijacked Greek ship.

The pirates are reportedly seeking a $5m (£3.1m) ransom for the hostages who include three children aged 12 to 16.

They were seized on 24 February while sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Jan Quist Johansen is being held along with his wife Birgit Marie Johansen, their sons Rune and Hjalte, and their daughter Naja, along with two adult Danish crew members.

Concern for their safety rose two weeks ago after a botched operation to rescue them by soldiers from Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

'Crushed, demoralised'

All seven are said by Ekstra Bladet's reporter to be aboard the MV Dover along with 20 other captives.

They are being held in a small room on the ship, the paper says.

"The father seems exhausted," its reporter writes in the report.

"He seems ill. The rest of the family is tired and angry. Jan and I shook hands and he was clearly glad to see me. The others were told to sit down on the deck behind him.

"One of the crew members never lifted his eyes once. He seemed crushed, demoralised. While I was with them he only looked at the deck. They all want the nightmare to be over as soon as possible."

The pirates would not let their captives talk to him, the reporter added.

Piracy is a highly lucrative trade in Somalia, where gangs can often demand millions of dollars in ransoms.

The EU's anti-piracy naval force said recently that pirates were holding a total of 31 vessels and 688 hostages.

Many of the vessels they target are cargo ships sailing near the Gulf of Aden - one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

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