Connect to share and comment

Somali pirates free South Africans Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, held hostage since 2010

Somalia pirates today released South African couple Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, who "are in good health" and "very happy to be free."

Somalia pirates south africans 2012 06 21Enlarge
A Somali man, part armed militia, part pirate, carries his high-caliber weapon on a beach in the central Somali town of Hobyo. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT /AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Somali pirates today released a South African couple held hostage for 20 months after being kidnapped off the coast of Tanzania. 

Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, from Durban, South Africa, "are in good health," and arrangements are being made for their return home, South Africa's department of international relations said Thursday.

"Today we are happy to get our freedom back," Pelizzari, an Italian national, said at a news conference in Somalia, Reuters reported.

"We are so happy today and to join our families again," Calitz said, according to the Associated Press.

More from GlobalPost: Somali pirates increase brutality

Pelizzari and Calitz were grabbed by pirates from Somalia as their yacht sailed toward the Mozambique channel, south of Dar es Salaam, in October 2010.

A third crew member, skipper Peter Eldridge, refused to leave the yacht and was rescued by the EU anti-piracy taskforce. 

Their release today was a joint effort between South African, Italian and Somali authorities, officials said. They are now in the hands of the Somali government.

"The South African government is gratified at the safe release of the South African couple," an official statement said, but made no mention of whether a ransom had been paid.

The pirates initially demanded $10 million for the release of Pelizzari and Calitz, but the ransom had dropped to $500,000 by March of last year.

South African aid group Gift of the Givers in February said it had received information that Pelizzari and Calitz had been "sold" and moved several times since being kidnapped, the South African Press Association reported.

More from GlobalPost: Pirates: The economic costs of maritime crime

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/120621/somali-pirates-free-south-african-couple-bruno-pelizzari-debbie-calitz