Danish family held by Somali pirates is released

September 7, 2011 - 8:00 AM

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Seven Danish hostages, including a family with teenage children, have been released by Somali pirates after more than six months in captivity, Denmark's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

The Danes — a couple with three children ages 12-16 and two crew members — were captured in the Indian Ocean on Feb. 24 while sailing around the world in a yacht.

"The seven Danes are doing well under the circumstances. They are expected back in Denmark in a short time," the ministry said in a brief statement.

It gave no details of how they were released and made no mention of a ransom being paid. No one at the Foreign Ministry was immediately available for comment.

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen told public broadcaster DR that the Danes were on their way back in a chartered airplane paid for by their insurance company. Loekke Rasmussen said their release came after "a long period of negotiations."

Jan Quist Johansen, his wife Birgit Marie Johansen, their sons Rune and Hjalte and daughter Naja, were captured along with the two adult Danish crew members when their 43-foot (13-meter) yacht was seized by pirates.

The Johansens are from Kalundborg, 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Copenhagen. They set out on their round-the-world journey in 2009.

"Of course it is very cheerful news," said Ole Meridin Petersen, chairman of the Kalundborg yacht club, where Jan Quist Johansen was a member.

"I can imagine that the hostages after their release need quite a lot of calm," Meridin Petersen told The Associated Press.

The yacht was seized while the Johansens were sailing through the pirate-infested waters off East Africa.

"The family very likely is aware that what they did was not so fortunate. They certainly feel pretty bad about it now," Meridin Petersen said.

Hostages are held in hot, austere conditions in Somalia — typically for many months — before a ransom is agreed on and paid, and the hijacked ships and crew are released. Last year, a British sailing couple were released after 388 days in captivity. Reports indicated that a ransom in the region of $1 million was paid for their release.

Somalia hasn't had a functioning government since 1991, one of the reasons the piracy trade has flourished.