Somali pirates threaten to kill captives from SA

HUGE RANSOM: Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz have been held captive since October last year.
HUGE RANSOM: Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz have been held captive since October last year.

SOMALI pirates, who kidnapped Durban couple Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz almost a year ago, have threatened to kill them if the US$4-million (R33-million) ransom is not paid soon.

In a phone call made to his sister Vera on September 5, Pelizzari said: "I know you are doing everything you can. If they do not get the ransom, they are going to kill us".

Vera yesterday said it was the first time that she had spoken to her brother since the kidnapping.

"I know he is alive. I heard his voice and I knew it was him," she said.

Vera said a pirate named Ali had been calling her weekly.

"I explained to him that we are not rich. I told him that it is going to take time to get the money," she said.

Desperate to raise the amount, Pelizzari's family have registered a trust, SOS Bru and Deb Trust.

"We have been forced to beg for donations. We had to get the NGO certificate and then the stamp and approval of the government so the trust has only been active since Thursday. We have also opened a SMS donation facility. The SMS costs R10 and so far we have received about 200 text messages," Vera said.

International relations spokesman Clayson Monyela yesterday said the government has a policy not to pay ransoms therefore the couple's families were dealing with the kidnappers.

"There is no real latest on the issue. The people who have taken the couple are speaking to the family because we do not pay ransoms," he said.

In the meantime the Pelizzari family are clinging to the hope that the couple may be home by Christmas.

"I am hoping but . I know the ransom demand is very high. They won't be released without the ransom paid up," Vera said.

Pelizzari and Calitz were aboard a yacht with skipper Peter Eldridge when Somali pirates boarded it on October 26 off the coast of Tanzania.

Eldridge refused to leave his vessel, but the couple were forced to go with their captors.

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