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No ransom paid for SA couple

The International Relations Department says SA does not pay ransom money in hostage situations.

Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari after their release. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The International Relations Department on Thursday said it was not aware of any money being exchanged for the release of a South African couple held hostage by Somali pirates.

Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were abducted from a yacht off the east African coast in 2010.

On Wednesday, they were released into the hands of the Somali government.

They were held captive for 20 months.

Department spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said it is government policy not give ransoms.

"This situation was not an exception. We are grateful to all the parties that played a role in the release of the couple."

Arrangements are being made for the couple to return home.

The pirates initially demanded $10 million (R80 million) from the families of Pelizzari and Calitz.

The ransom demand dropped to $500,000 (R4 million) in March, according to a blog set up to highlight their plight.

But the ransom was raised again as negotiations stumbled.

The vessel was taken hostage as it was about to enter the Mozambique Channel, south of Dar es Salaam in October 2010.

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