Kidnappings remain a crucial source of income for pirate gangs in Somalia, a country that has had no effective government since 1991. Like the gangs who take to the seas to capture commercial freighters and their crews, pirate gangs in central Somalia and in the Puntland region hold their victims for ransom, conducting negotiations through third-party mediators both inside Somalia and in the Somali diaspora living in the West.
Ransom negotiations can be lengthy, lasting anywhere from just a few days to more than a year. The Chandlers, a retired British couple captured aboard their yacht near the Seychelles Islands in 2009 were eventually released in Nov. 2010.
Soldiers for the transitional Somali government in Mogadishu have increasingly taken on pirate gangs, as they extend their authority outside of Mogadishu, and together with allied forces of the African Union, Britain, and the United States, Somalis have begun to launch rescue operations to release those who are kidnapped.
Just last week, four foreign aid workers for the Norwegian Refugee Committee were successfully rescued in a combined operation by Somali and Kenyan armed forces, near the town of Afmadow.
Two Spaniards, kidnapped from the Doctors Without Borders facility at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex along the Somali border, were kidnapped in October 2011, and remain in captivity.