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The South African skipper safe and sound. Tale of a hectic weekend

The yacht near the Somali coast (credit: Eunavfor)

The South African captain of a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean is not dead as rumors spread this weekend. He escaped from them. It was collected “ on board a military ship and is safe and sound » has just confirmed a spokesperson for the European anti-piracy operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta.

His rescue was, however, eventful, according to the first account just given by the military. And the sailors of the Floréal, the French frigate which is taking part in Operation Atalanta, were at the forefront.

Floréal sailors caught under pirate fire

The yacht, named “Choizil”, was spotted by the frigate Floréal on Saturday November 6. Sailors detect movements and ships “ nearby suspects ". They then tried several times to make contact with the yacht, “ in particular by performing a helicopter flight ". In vain. A decision was then made to send a boarding team aboard an inflatable boat to find out more. During the approach, the sailors wipe “ gunshots coming from the yacht ". And “an SOS is received”. It is now clear to the sailors that the pleasure boat has been hacked and that its crew is in the hands of pirates. The soldiers then make the wise decision to turn back. But the Floreal remains nearby.

The next morning is November 7 (Sunday), according to the Atalanta spokesperson, “ the yacht comes very close to the coast and runs aground ". The pirates leave the shore trying to take three crew members with them. But " the South African skipper resists, and refuses to leave the boat, while the pirates take the two other members of the crew as hostages ". According to some accounts, he then jumped into the water. As soon as the pirates leave the yacht, the skipper is " recovered by the sailors and repatriated on the Floréal », Confirms Atalanta HQ, before being transferred to another military ship, Dutch this time (the Amsterdam probably), and evacuated to Mombasa. NB: the story is probably a little complicated than that. To be continued…

(update, November 8) The skipper has been “ transferred to South African authorities », in Mombasa, said an Atalanta spokesperson late in the evening. " The fate of the other two hostages remains unknown. ". But European forces in the region follow the situation ».

Two South African hostages

(update, November 9) A helicopter attempted for several hours during the day of November 7 to locate the two hostages taken ashore by the pirates”, I was told today at EUNAVFOR Atalanta HQ. But without success. “ As of yesterday, all warships have now left the area. Our mission is at sea, not on land ». As to Seychelles coast guard and the EUNAVFOR representative in this archipelago, they formally denied that the yacht had been caught in the waters of the archipelago. " L'iincident took place in Kenyan waters » specifies a press release (1), calling for more attention to certain information coming from “hackers”. And indeed, we are starting to know more about the journey of the yacht and its occupants. According to the South African press, the two people in the hands of the kidnappers are a couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah, living in Bluff, near Durban, before leaving to sail to Madagascar a year ago. The couple left Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania) on October 21 with another boater, named Peter, to convey a ship to Richard Bays (South Africa). It was off the Kenyan coast (NB: which is not really the way to go to South Africa) that they were attacked by pirates who took them back to Baraawe in southern Somalia, where they were spotted by naval forces.

(1) The Seychelles Coast Guard and the EU NAVFOR Atalanta representative in Seychelles have confirmed that the yacht was not taken hostage in Seychelles waters, as reported by Agence France Presse, which cites a pirate in the Somali port of Harardere. The incident took place in Kenyan waters (…) The pirates are most probably using the word “Seychelles” to grab media attention, and therefore journalists need to be cautious of the reports they obtain on the internet, particularly when pirates are quoted as sources.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).