Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Auckland man's plea for family kidnapped by pirates
By Brook Sabin

An Auckland man has made an emotional plea for help after his kidnapped sister was sold to a terrorist group in Somalia.

Debbie Carlitz and her partner Bruno were captured by pirates a year and a half ago.

Now negotiations have broken down and they're in cages at the hands of a radical Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda.

Photos are the closest Kevin van der Merwe can get to his sister Debbie.

She and her partner Bruno, both South African nationals, were taken hostage by Somali pirates off the cost of Mozambique in late 2010.

They had been on the trip of a lifetime, eventually intending to sail to New Zealand to visit her brother.
“I'd just like to hug her,” says Mr van der Merwe.

Mr van der Merwe hasn't been able to say one word to her in 18 months.
“If I could say one thing to her, it's that we're trying our best,” he says.
The pirates initially demanded US$10 million.
The family could muster only a fraction of that.

So, earlier this year, the pirates sold the couple to the Somali terror network al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda.
Maritime security expert Gary Crook, whose Albany-based company Barantas featured on 60 Minutes earlier this year when they recovered hostages in Somalia, says being at the hands of terrorists is grim.

“They'll use it in two ways,” he says. “They'll either look to get a recovery of their investment and hopefully make some money in their eyes, or they could see it as a publicity gathering exercise in terms of an execution.”

Mr van der Merwe got proof in a letter that his sister is still alive, just two weeks ago.

Her captors allowed her to answer a question, only she would know.

They were also able to record a phone call.

“Tell me,” says Debbie Carlitz. “When are we going to get out of here?

“We are deficient in vitamins and minerals and everything. We are very deficient in all of that. Even my teeth are falling out.”

The rest of Mr van der Merwe's South African family are desperately raising money, but still haven't got enough.
Tonight, he's also appealing to the New Zealand public.

“This is really a last desperate attempt to get some money together to try and get enough money together to secure their release,” he says.

The terrorists continue to threaten death unless the money is paid.


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