Kenyan kidnap: Pirates 'bring shame on Somalia'

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The beach near Kiwayu Safari village where holidaying British couple David and Judith Tebbutt were attackedImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The couple were attacked while holidaying near Kiwayu Safari village

Most Somalis will tell you they are disgusted by the cruelty of the pirates who are holding Judith Tebbutt.

The 56-year-old from Hertfordshire saw her husband David shot in front of her at a remote beach resort on the north Kenyan coast.

One respected elder was so angered he spoke out on a local radio station to condemn the kidnap and to call for the British woman's swift release.

"This action would definitely spoil the image of the millions of good Somalis across the globe," said Imam Omar Moalin Abshir in an interview with the BBC that was translated from Mogadishu.

"What hurt me is the fact that they have killed her husband as well as denying her, her freedom.

"I feel the worst thing you can do to someone is to deny them their freedom. That itself is a big crime."

Ransom payments

In 2008 pirates captured another British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler.

They were held for 13 months until a ransom was delivered.

Although significantly lower than the initial demand of $7m (£4.5m), it was reported to be around $1m (£650,000).

The fact that Mrs Tebbutt is also British is significant for Imam Omar Moalin Abshir, who is from the same Suleiman sub-clan as the pirates holding Judith Tebbutt.

"We know the kind gesture the British people and their government have extended to Somalis after the collapse of the Somali state.

"Many Somalis are today enjoying freedom and a good life in UK. It's a shame that this is how we repay our brothers in UK."

Image source, Other
Image caption,
Publishing executive David Tebbutt was killed while his wife Judith was kidnapped

In Somali society the elders are treated with great respect. But when it comes to the pirates the rule book is torn up.

They are motivated by one thing only - money.

The size of the ransom payments make it a hugely profitable business.

Experts say the average payment is now $5m (£3.2m). According to the piracy watchdog and campaign group Ecoterra, the pirates are currently holding 48 vessels, along with 504 crew including a South African yachting couple.

'Shared ransom'

Despite the fact that the elders are pretty much ignored by the gangs, they are still working to help release Mrs Tebbutt.

They have appealed to the local administration of the Himan and Heb region to help. Its leader, Mohamed Aden, organised the handover of the Chandlers last November.

"Recently there was a meeting held by the elders from the central region where this issue was raised. We agreed to work together as elders and ensure she is freed.

"We are making contacts with elders in the specific area where she is said to be held and we are determined to use everything at our disposal to ensure the lady is released."

There had been fears that Mrs Tebbutt was being held by the Islamist insurgent group Al Shabab.

Although it is now clear from local reports that she is in the hands of pirates, Al Shabab - which is known to be running short of funds - is likely to gain from the kidnapping.

"According to information we are receiving, Al Shabab and the pirates are one and the same," said Imam Omar Moalin Abshir.

"They have a link and they share every ransom paid for the release of ships hijacked in Somalia - and that is a fact."

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