'Please don't worry' pirate kidnap Briton tells family

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The Independent Online

A tearful Rachel Chandler told her family not to worry about her as she made contact for the first time since being taken captive by Somali pirates a week ago.

She told her brother Stephen Collett she was "bearing up" and added: "Please do not worry about us. We are managing."

The phone call was broadcast on ITV News today, a day after her husband made first contact with the outside world via the broadcaster.

Mrs Chandler broke down during the call despite repeatedly reassuring her brother that she was being well cared for.

"I'm bearing up. Thank you for everything you are doing," she said.

"Thank you, thank you very much."

Her voice cracked but she managed to compose herself as the conversation continued.

"We are safe," she said.

"If we want anything they will provide it in terms of food and water.

"They are very hospitable people."

Mrs Chandler, 55, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, added: "Physically we are fine. Physically we are healthy."

Mrs Chandler was unable to say where the couple were being held.

Mr and Mrs Chandler were kidnapped from their yacht in the early hours of last Friday and, as their ordeal entered its second week, British Government officials held urgent talks on their plight.

ITV News spoke to Mr Chandler yesterday but in a call today he sounded much more strained and he seemed to be speaking deliberately slowly.

Mr Collett asked his brother-in-law if he was being well looked after. He replied: "So far, yes."

Told the family was trying to secure their release, Mr Chandler said: "We know nothing here."

"It is nice to speak to you."

Asked about the conditions, Mr Chandler said: "I can only say we are well and that's as far as I can say."

The Chandlers were taken from their yacht by armed men and have been moved around as their captors try to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

Mr Collett made a direct appeal to the pirates to release the couple during today's telephone call.

"My sister and her husband are blameless tourists and if you release them it would show your compassionate nature and it would be positive to everyone. Thank you," he said.

The personal appeal comes after Government officials today held urgent talks at the Cobra emergency briefing room.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "There is a team working across government on this kidnap issue." However, it was not a full Cobra meeting and no ministers attended.

Gunmen boarded the couple's yacht as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

They were forced to sail towards Somalia before being moved onto a container ship, the Kota Wajar, which was seized by the pirates earlier this month.

Mr Chandler told ITV News that he was aboard the Kota Wajar during yesterday's call.

Today, his wife said they had been moved from the ship but was not able to say where they were being held.

A man who claimed to speak for the Somali kidnappers said the couple spent last night in the coastal town of Harardhere but would today be moved to a ship anchored off the eastern coast of Somalia.

The pirates believe it will be safer for the couple to be kept on a ship with other hostages, said the man who identified himself only by his first name Abdinor.

He said Mr and Mrs Chandler are healthy and added that the group was yet to make a ransom demand.

It is not known if the pirates intend to return the couple to the Kota Wajar, one of eight ships which have been captured in the area in recent months.