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Sweet homecoming for Somali pirate captives

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Katharine Child


RELEASED: Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz are escorted by Somali security officer Ahmed Fiqi after their release in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Thursday. Somali pirates kidnapped the South African couple 20 months ago aboard a yacht // Image by: Picture: FEISAL OMAR/REUTERS

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BRUNO Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, the couple freed from pirates in Somalia last week, are expected back in Johannesburg today.

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said the couple would arrive at OR Tambo International airport at 4.30pm.

"We are quite elated that they are coming home. This is what we were working around the clock for," said Monyela.

The couple's homecoming will bring to an end almost two years of horror and forced separation from their families.

Pelizzari and Calitz were working as crew members on the yacht, Choizil when they were captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Tanzania in October 2010.

They were being held in the Lower Shebelle region of Somalia when they were freed by Italian and Somali forces last Wednesday, bringing an end to 20 months of captivity.

Pelizzari, shocked by his new-found freedom, told The Times last week that he and Calitz sometimes "lost hope" and "the thought that we might not be freed crossed ou r minds".

The couple arrived in Rome, where Pelizzari was reunited with his 83-year-old mother, on Thursday and three of Calitz's four adult children.

One of Pelizzari's five sisters, Nora Wright, said his time in captivity was "tough" on his mother.

Calitz learned for the first time of two grandchildren, born while she was in captivity. She will meet them in Pretoria later this week.

Her brother, Dale van der Merwe, said the couple will spend a night at the p residential guesthouse in Pretoria before joining their families in Gauteng for the weekend.


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