The remote hut where British publisher was murdered and his wife kidnapped... but was pirate gang tipped off by hotel worker? UK Special Forces are now joining the hunt for Mrs Tebbutt amid fears she has been taken by Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab.Kidnapped Briton possibly in Somalia.Kenyan police detain suspect over death, kidnap of Britons updateWe condemn the payment of ransom to Hawiye / Habar Gidir sub-clan saleeban terrorist
LONDON — A British tourist seized by Somali raiders from a secluded, upmarket resort on the Kenyan coast more than six months ago in an attack that claimed her husband’s life was set free on Wednesday, ending a gripping drama that had helped fuel Kenya’s rationale for invading southern Somalia.
Judith Tebbutt, the 56-year-old captive, praised the efforts of her son, Oliver, in getting her released in an interview with Britain’s ITV News that was broadcast hours after British officials confirmed that she had been set free, apparently unharmed.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my son, who successfully secured my release,” she said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did.”
Mrs. Tebbutt was shown wearing a purple head scarf in a blue-walled room with what appeared to be a clothes stand in the background. The precise location of the interview in Somalia was not disclosed.
British officials declined to go into detail about the circumstances of her release. “Our priority now is to get her to a place of safety,” the Foreign Office in London said in a statement. Officials said she was on her way to Kenya from Somalia.
Somalis with knowledge of Mrs. Tebbutt’s release and British news reports said that her family had met ransom demands to secure her release. British officials declined to comment. As a matter of public policy, the British government does not condone the payment of ransom or other inducements to hostage-takers.
Mrs. Tebbutt’s abduction was one of several kidnappings by Somali gunmen in Kenya last year that Kenyan officials initially cited as justification for sending troops into Somalia on Oct. 16, arguing that Kenya had to defend its tourism industry.
But, soon afterward, the Kenyan government disclosed that the foray was planned much earlier, part of a covert strategy to penetrate Somalia and keep the violence in one of Africa’s most anarchic countries from spilling into one of Africa’s most stable.
“I’m really happy,” Mrs. Tebbutt told ITV. “It’s just nice to be around other people. It’s been quite lonely. Seven months is a long time and under the circumstances, with my husband passing away, made it harder.”
“There were some very hard psychological moments,” she said, “but I got through it. So I’m really relieved.”
“I was moved around a bit from house to house. That started when there was some Navy SEALs successfully captured two aid workers. I think it was on the news,” she said, apparently referring to events in January when a team of about two dozen Navy SEALs rescued two other hostages — an American aid worker and her Danish colleague — held by Somali pirates since October.
“That night I was woken up and was moved around,” Mrs. Tebbutt said. “It was very disorientating. To be woken in the middle of the night and moved, and you’d stay there for a little while and then you’d move again.”
Gunmen seized Mrs. Tebbutt, and killed her husband, David Tebbutt, 58, at the $430 per night Kiwayu Safari Lodge in September in one of a series of attacks at coastal resorts near the town of Lamu, one of Kenya’s best-known tourist destinations.
The couple were the only guests at the resort and had arrived from the Masai Mara game reserve.
Mrs. Tebbutt was abducted in the middle of the night after a speedboat packed with Somali gunmen sped up to the resort, a string of 18 luxury cottages just south of the Somali border. They burst into the bungalow occupied by the British couple and fled with Mrs. Tebbutt.
Her husband was believed to have been killed when he tried to resist the attackers.
Western officials said at the time that she had been abducted by a pirate gang that was holding her deep within Somalia.
The raid was particularly alarming for both Kenyan officials and overseas visitors since it seemed to open an ominous new chapter in a saga of piracy in recent years, during which gunmen have hijacked dozens of ships and ransomed them for millions of dollars.
Worries about pirate attacks on land deepened in October when, three weeks after Mrs. Tebbutt was taken, Somali gunmen staged another brazen attack, snatching a handicapped French tourist from a beachside bungalow on Manda Island near Lamu and escaping to Somalia. The woman was later reported to have died in captivity.
Asked whether a ransom had been paid for Mrs. Tebbutt’s release, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Our position is that we do not pay ransoms and we do not facilitate concessions to hostage-takers.”
The spokesman said Mrs. Tebbutt’s case had been discussed about 20 times at the government’s emergency committee, known as Cobra. The spokesman, speaking in return for anonymity under departmental rules, declined to comment on whether the British authorities had advised Mrs. Tebbutt’s family not to pay a ransom.
“All I can say is that we have been in close contact throughout,” he told the Press Association news agency. “We have obviously been providing support to the family and been in close contact with the family throughout and have been meeting regularly to discuss the case.”
Mrs. Tebbutt’s release was broadly welcomed by lawmakers, friends and others including a British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who spent 388 days in captivity after being abducted at gunpoint aboard their 38-foot yacht near the Seychelles in October 2009.
“I hope she will have an opportunity to pick up the pieces of her life, and deal with the loss she has had,” Mr. Chandler told the BBC.
Somali pirates have yet to release captives including an American taken hostage in January and two Spanish aid workers abducted in Kenya, news reports said.
Other hostages include a French military adviser and scores of mariners from several countries taken prisoner when their vessels were hijacked at sea.
Rick Blears, a spokesman for an advocacy group supporting kidnapped seafarers, Save Our Seafarers, said that Mrs. Tebbutt’s release, while welcome, had shown that “the media spotlight is firmly on kidnapped civilians rather than any of the 233 working seafarers who are currently in captivity and have been so many months.”
“Many of them are kept in appalling conditions while slow ransom negotiations with shipping insurers take place,” Mr. Blears said. “Many of their families are just far too poor to pay any kind of ransom.”
“We also firmly believe that any move at government level to ban the payment of ransoms to pirates, as U.S. Secretary Hilary Clinton proposes, would have a massively detrimental effect and put the lives of hostages at grave risk,” he said. via NYT
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