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'Yoga helped us survive ordeal'

A British couple held captive by Somali pirates for more than a year after being kidnapped from their yacht have revealed that they kept fit by practising yoga and aerobics during the terrifying ordeal.

Paul and Rachel Chandler also claimed that they stayed alive during the 388-day drama because they were "survivors".

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday during their emotional return to Britain, the retired couple described their captors as "evil", but spoke of how they wanted to help the Somali people restore law and order in the war-ravaged country.

Referring to the armed pirates who snatched them from their 38ft boat as it sailed off the Seychelles last October, Mrs Chandler, 56, said: "People will expect us to want these people dead. But we do not. We actually want to make closer contact with Somali people when we get back to England and try to persuade the international community to help restore law and order in their country. That way our suffering will not be in vain."

She continued: "We want to follow what happens in Somalia and do what little we can to help people there lead peaceful and secure lives one day. We know what happened to us at the hands of criminals is not part of the culture or religion. We are happy to be free now and meet the civilised, decent, everyday people of this country. Even those misguided young men who held us for so long could be helped if they had education instead of brutality."

The couple, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, were handed over to local officials in the Somali town of Adado last Sunday after a ransom of up to a million dollars (£620,000) was reportedly paid to their kidnappers.

They made the comments during a visit to the government headquarters in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, before being flown to Nairobi in Kenya and then back to London, finally touching down on British soil on Tuesday.

Following their release, doctors said they were suffering from dehydration and high blood pressure but had not come to any physical harm.

"We are naturally fit, exercising regularly and eating healthily, and that has helped us through," said former economist Mrs Chandler. "We managed to do some yoga and aerobic exercise."

She said the worst suffering came when the pirates separated them spending three months in solitary confinement. "There were times of total despair. We thought we would never see our families or friends again," she added.

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