Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Yacht couple rescue 'was bungled'

Paul and Rachel Chandler
Paul and Rachel Chandler fear they will be killed

A special forces operation mounted to rescue a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates was "bungled", the BBC has learned.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured while sailing towards Tanzania on 23 October.

A Whitehall official told the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner the rescue was aborted as a result of technical problems and security fears.

The pirates have since renewed their threats to kill the couple.

At the time of the kidnapping, a Royal Marines boarding party, attached to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship The Wave Knight, could see the Chandlers and the pirates.

But the marines did not intervene at the request of the couple, amid concerns they would be killed, said Gardner.

Decision delays

The Whitehall official told him a special forces operation had also been mounted to save the couple.

The Special Boat Service team was deployed from the UK, but was delayed on the way.

The Whitehall official told Gardner: "There was some bungling here."

Lynn Rival
The couple were on the 38ft Lynn Rival when they were kidnapped

The official said it was a combination of technical problems at one of the transit staging posts and delays in decision taking in Whitehall.

The Special Boat Service team arrived nearby, but was not in time to rescue the couple.

Gardner said: "It's very unlikely that we will ever be told what went wrong, but what I will say is this - if, God forbid, anything does happen to the Chandlers and they do get harmed by the pirates, I would expect pressure for some kind of investigation into how these mistakes were made."

Earlier the BBC spoke to one of the pirates who said if the UK Government was not willing to pay the ransom, the couple's relatives should find the money.

The pirate, who called himself Adowe, did not say how much he wanted.

Mr Chandler, 59, said in a telephone interview with ITN, broadcast on Thursday, that he and his wife, 55, had been separated and beaten by the pirates and he expected to be killed within "three or four days".

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