NZ man's sister freed from Somali terrorists
Sat, 23 Jun 2012 6:00p.m.
By Brook Sabin
An Auckland man has described the moment he found out his sister had been freed from pirates after being held hostage for nearly two years.
Debbie Carlitz and her partner Bruno have been held in Somalia since being hijacked in late 2010.
Last month her brother made an emotional plea on 3 News for donations, fearing she would be killed if a ransom wasn't paid.
Auckland-based Kevin van der Merwe says there were a couple times he had given up hope of ever seeing his sister walking free again.
Debbie Carlitz and her partner Bruno, both South African nationals, were taken hostage off the coast of Mozambique back in 2010.
Earlier this year, as hostage negotiations broke down, they were sold to the Somali terror network al-Shabab.
Last month, Mr van der Merwe made an emotional plea to help his South African family gather donations as the kidnappers threatened death.
Now finally, a ransom has been paid and Kevin van der Merwe will get his wish of once again hugging his sister.
“Everything we could scrap together didn't come near the $10 million they were demanding, and it's only because of the generosity of the public that they're free.”
Debbie Calitz has broken a horror record – the longest time a Westerner has been held hostage by pirates.
“She has been through hell,” says her brother. “Clearly, it's not good. She's lost her teeth and her hair and she's lost a lot of weight too.”
But a Kiwi expert says the pirates have wasted no time.
“A hijacking has just been reported off the coast of Somalia – a fishing dow with about seven or eight crew onboard has just been taken, and there was another ship taken about a week and a half ago,” says Gary Crook of Barantas Security.
Kevin van der Merwe's wish is that more be done to combat piracy.
While the horror is over for his sister, for others it's just beginning.
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