Is the Royal Navy soooo busy that they can't try to rescue one elderly couple from some ragtag Somali Muslim pirates?

Or are the British pols too afraid of offending their Muslim buddies? Somali pirates say they will die before releasing Paul and Rachel Chandler.

Somali pirates yesterday threatened a fight to the death that would endanger a hostage British couple if British forces attempt to rescue their captives. “We die first before they get freed,” said one of the pirates, contacted by satellite telephone. Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured on October 23.

The pirates’ new threat follows reports that an operation mounted by the Special Boat Service to rescue the couple was “bungled” before it could reach them because of technical problems.

“If anyone interrupts our negotiations to get the payment of a ($7 milliom) ransom, it will be a risk for them [the Chandlers],” said “Gelle”, one of the pirates guarding the couple. “So we advise that no one interrupts our current good discussions.”

In the only comment that held some hope for the Chandlers, Gelle said that they had lowered their demand from $7m to $2m “or whatever price that we agree”. It was a clear signal that the pirates are open to offers. Last week a Greek tanker, Maran Centaurus, was released for a reported $5.5m to $7m.

Gelle said that his group had spoken yesterday and on Friday with one of five brokers supposedly involved in negotiating a ransom. He said he believed the brokers were negotiating with “close relatives of our hostages, or other people trusted on behalf of them.” As well as the Chandlers, pirates are holding 11 ships, including the British-flagged chemical tanker St James Park which was seized on December 28. TIMES ONLINE

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