Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Judith Tebbutt: UK hostage kidnapped in Kenya freed

21 March 2012 

Judith Tebbutt spoke to reporters about the death of her husband David
A British hostage has been freed in Somalia, six months after she was seized and her husband killed in Kenya.
Judith Tebbutt, 56, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, was flown to Nairobi after her family paid the pirates a ransom for her release.
She said she was "very relieved" and looking forward to seeing her "fantastic" son Oliver.
Her husband David, 58, was shot by a gang of six men at their remote holiday resort in Kiwayu, north of Lamu island.
'A good man'
Mrs Tebbutt, a social worker, who is believed to be deaf and was wearing a double hearing aid, said: "I'm very relieved to have been released. Seven months is a long time. Under the circumstances, with my husband passing away, it made it harder.


There will be enormous relief at the release of Judith Tebbutt after her terrible ordeal.
Her family were able to raise a ransom to pay for her freedom. But this should not obscure the fact that some 230 people are still being held in Somalia - most by pirates.
The majority will have been captured from merchant vessels and many are from third world countries and receive almost no publicity.
Others, like the South African couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, were captured by pirates in October 2010 and could not afford the $4m being asked for their release.
Some hostages have been freed by US special forces - but these operations can go badly wrong.
Attempts to rescue a British and Italian hostage in Nigeria earlier this month ended with both being killed.
"I'm just happy to be released and I'm looking forward to seeing my son who successfully secured my release. I don't know how he did it, but he did, which is great."
She said she was still coming to terms with her husband's death, which she only found out through contact with her son about two weeks after she was kidnapped.
"I feel extremely sad. Very, very sad indeed. He was a good man. That was very unfortunate. Really horrible. But you've just got to pick up the pieces.... and move on," she said.
She landed in Nairobi on Wednesday where she will be looked after by officials from the British embassy before being flown back to the UK to be reunited with friends and relatives.
Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman confirmed the release and said the government would provide consular care in Nairobi.
He said it did not pay ransoms and did not "facilitate concessions to hostage takers", but had met the family regularly to discuss the case.
It is understood Mrs Tebbutt's son Oliver is in the Kenyan city to greet her.
Mrs Tebbutt was seized on 11 September last year from Kiwayu Safari Village, a luxury resort on a deserted stretch of Kenyan coastline, comprised of thatched cottages on the beach.
The couple had arrived only the previous day and were the only guests.
She was taken away in a speedboat by Somali pirates, after her husband had been killed.
David TebbuttMr Tebbutt worked in publishing and sat on the board of a book charity
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said a private security company had secured her release, not British officials.
He said it was unclear how much money was involved, and revealing the amount was generally discouraged to avoid copy-cat gangs.
Paying the ransom was not illegal because it was not known to be going to a terrorist organisation, he added.
"She will now become the key witness in the ongoing murder investigation of her husband David," our correspondent said.
East Africa correspondent Will Ross, in Nairobi, said the ransom had been paid in the last three days.
'Al-Qaeda links'
Rick Blears of Save Our Seafarers, the global anti-Somali piracy campaign, said that "any move at government level to ban the payment of ransoms to pirates, as US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton proposes, would have a massively detrimental effect and put the lives of hostages at grave risk".
Police in Kenya said six gunmen had burst into the Tebbutts' room last September and officers speculated that Mr Tebbutt may have tried to resist the gang.
He worked for publisher Faber & Faber and sat on the board of the Book Trade Charity, which supports those in the book trade.
The Kenyan government said at the time of the kidnap that it believed the al-Shabab Islamist group, which has since merged with al-Qaeda, was behind the murder and kidnap. The group denied the allegation.
Last October Kenya sent troops into its neighbour in pursuit of the militants and in support of the weak interim Somali government, which controls only the capital, Mogadishu, and a few other areas.
Rachel Chandler, who was held with her husband Paul for 13 months by pirates in Somalia, said: "My feeling is one of relief and happiness for Judith Tebbutt and her family, that finally she is free."
Mr Chandler added: "I hope she will have an opportunity to pick up the pieces of her life, and deal with the loss she has had."
EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton said she was delighted Mrs Tebbutt was finally free and would work hard to fight the "scourge" of piracy and kidnapping in the horn of Africa.
Last year, two men appeared in court in connection with the attack, with both denying the charges.
One of them, Ali Babitu Kololo, told the court he had been forced at gunpoint to lead a group of men to the hotel and had not been a willing accomplice.

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