Freed British hostage headed back home

March 22, 2012 6:24 am
Her husband David was killed when Somali gunmen stormed a resort in Lamu on September 11/AFP

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – Freed hostage Judith Tebbutt is likely to be flown back to the United Kingdom on Thursday.

Tebbutt who arrived in Nairobi on Wednesday barely two hours after being set free by her Somali captors said she was looking forward to seeing her family.

“I am now looking forward to returning home to family and friends whom I have missed so very much,” she said in a statement sent to newsrooms late on Wednesday.

She said she was delighted to have been re-united with her son Oliver who played a huge role in securing her release from Somalia.

“I am of course hugely relieved to at last be free and overjoyed to be reunited with my son Ollie,” she said.

Her husband David was killed when Somali gunmen stormed a resort in Lamu on September 11 last year and took her into captivity.

She said in an interview on Wednesday that she did not know her husband had been killed until two weeks after her capture. “I just assumed he was alive but then my son told me he died, it was difficult,” she said. “Six months is a long time and… the circumstances, with my husband passing away, made it harder.”

“This however is a time when my joy at being safe again is overwhelmed by my immense grief, shared by Ollie and the wider family, following David’s passing in September last year,” she said, adding “My family and I now need to grieve properly.”

The statement hinted she will not grant media interviews because she needs “space and privacy”.

“I hope that while I adjust to my freedom and the devastating loss of my husband, that I and my family will be allowed space, time and most of all privacy to come to terms with the events of the last six months,” she said.

Tebbutt, 57, looking frail but in good spirits, was flown to Nairobi aboard a small aircraft shortly after her release in the Addado region of northeastern Somalia, praising her son for helping secure her freedom.

A ransom of $1.2 million (Sh98.4 million) was paid after negotiations involving British citizens of Somali origin, said Daud Ali, an Addado resident close to the mediators.

Mohamud Ibrahim, a community elder, said negotiations started shortly after Tebbutt’s kidnapping on September 11 last year while on holiday in Kenya with her husband, and “expenses incurred during the captivity were very high.”

Video footage showed Tebbutt, dressed in the flowing robes and coloured headscarf commonly worn by Somali women, being led towards a small aircraft before taking off for Kenya.

“There were some very hard psychological moments,” she told Britain’s ITV, her voice faltering, “but I got through it.”

The Tebbutts were the only guests at the up market Kiwayu Safari Village, just 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Somali border, when they were abducted from their room on the first night of their holiday.

A Kenyan court in September charged a watchman at the resort with aggravated robbery for the killing of David Tebbutt and kidnapping with intent to murder his wife. The suspect denied the accusations and the trial continues.

In a separate ITV interview filmed in the days before her release and broadcast on Wednesday, Tebbutt said she was in good health and was not mistreated, receiving medication the three times she had fallen sick.

“My condition is good as far as I know. I feel fine. I’ve had absolutely no torture whatsoever. In fact, I’ve been made to feel as comfortable as possible by the pirates that are holding me.”

Ibrahim, the community elder, said local people in Addado had been sympathetic to Tebbutt “because she lost her husband and suffered too much at the hands of her abductors.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was not government policy to pay ransoms “and we do not facilitate concessions to hostage-takers.”

Asked whether officials had advised the family not to pay a ransom, he replied: “All I can say is that we have been in close contact throughout.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “delighted” at her release but expressed condolences over the killing of her husband.

Pirates in the region also hold hundreds of hostages seized from ships in the Indian Ocean, and have in the past demanded, and received, multi-million dollar ransoms for the release of captives and of boats.

A French woman, Marie Dedieu, kidnapped from the same coastal area three weeks later, died in captivity.

In October, gunmen captured two Spanish aid workers from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, who are believed to be still held in Somalia.

A number of Kenyans are also being held captive in Somalia.

The spate of attacks prompted Kenya to send troops and tanks into southern Somalia in October.


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