A South African white man was shot dead on Sunday after he refused to disembark from a yacht in the Indian Ocean that was hijacked by Somali pirates last week, said pirates and residents.
The man was killed in Barawe town on the southern Somali coastline by pirates who had taken him hostage and wanted him to go onshore from his yacht in which he was sailing with others, including a woman and a boy.
South African embassy officials were unavailable to comment. Somali pirates hijack vessels on the Indian Ocean, take them to the Somali coast and hold them until money is paid, but the killing of hostages is rare.
Andrew Mwangura, the head of a regional maritime group based in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa, confirmed the yacht was anchored along Somali’s coastline near Barawe, reports Reuters.
He said his organisation was investigating reports of a possible hijacking of the sailors, believed to be tourists.
“What I know is there was a yacht spotted by local people in southern Somalia, and we are trying to investigate reports of hostages and to verify their nationality,” Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, told Reuters.
An Al Shabaab rebel spokesman who declined to give his name said the hostage killed was South African, and his body was lying in the morgue at the town’s hospital.
He said he had been notified of the victim’s nationality by the pirates.
Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked rebel group, controls Barawe on the southern coast of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation that has been mired in violence and is awash with weapons since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991.
The UN-backed administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls just a few blocks of the capital.
The hostages’ yacht was adrift on the coast, residents said.
“He was shot and killed after he refused to disembark from his yacht and move onshore in Baraawe town,” Ali Shuke, a resident in Baraawe town said.
“The man died instantly and the gunmen took the other hostages onshore. The woman and a boy were taken to jungle areas near the town.”
Earlier this week, Mwangura said he also was trying to verify reports that the sailors were British.
The British foreign office has said it had heard of the reports of the hijacking, and was investigating the incident.
Pirates said the yacht was hijacked near Lamu on Kenya’s coast, near Somalia’s southern coastline tip.
Meanwhile BuaNews reports that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is working with its international counterparts in Somalia to investigate whether two people kidnapped there are South Africans.
According to reports, three people on a yacht in the Indian Ocean were hijacked by Somali pirates last week.
One of the men was shot dead by the pirates because he refused to get off the yacht. The department has confirmed he was not a South African citizen.
Departmental spokesperson Saul Molobi said they would communicate more information as soon as investigations were concluded.