Somali pirates issued a $7 million ransom demand on Saturday for a British couple, kidnapped over a week ago in the Indian Ocean from their yacht.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, aged 59 and 55, were seized from the boat, the Lynn Rival, Oct 23 by armed men, and the yacht was later found abandoned in international waters.

In a call to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a pirate said: “We only need a little amount of $7 million.

“If they do not harm us, we will not harm them.”

A spokesman for the British government rejected the demands, saying: “The government isn’t going to make any substantive concessions to hostage-takers, and that includes the payment of ransom.”

The family of the Chandlers’ said they were still checking the demand.

The pirate said the money was partly in compensation for the damage caused by NATO-led anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast.

“They have destroyed a lot of equipment belonging to the poor local fishermen,” he said.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke said in London that his government was attempting to make contact with the pirates, to explain to them that the couple did not have that amount of money.

Piracy is rife off the Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government since 1991.

Young men take to the seas in search of multimillion-dollar ransoms despite the presence of over a dozen international warships, which were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden last year to combat a rise in piracy.

The pirates have expanded their operations further out into the Indian Ocean to avoid the patrols.

In the last few weeks, pirates have seized a Chinese cargo ship with 25 crew members, a Spanish fishing boat with 36 crew onboard and a Panamian cargo vessel carrying 26 seamen.

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