CAPETOWN - Almost two years in captivity, the family of two South Africans kidnapped by Somali pirates are seeking mosque help to win their release.
Vera Hecht, a sister of Bruno Pelizzari who is held by Somali pirates, told OnIslam.net that she will be visiting all Somali-run mosques in South Africa to seek the help of Muslim worshippers to rescue her family.
Pellizari was kidnapped by pirates along with Debbie Calitz in October 2010 while on the yacht Choizil which was sailing from Tanzania to Richard's Bay in South Africa.
The captors initially demanded a 4-million-dollar ransom to free the two kidnapped Christians.
Having failed to get the money, the kidnappers sold the two hostages to another Somali group, which is now demanding a higher ransom.
I started a trust fund called the SOS Bru and Deb Trust and we have been raising cash for their release, Hecht told OnIslam.net over the phone.
But the amount is still very little compared to what the kidnappers are demanding.
Hecht also created a website documenting her appeal so that the pirates could track her efforts.
Somali pirates have been preying on ships transiting in the busy sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden, which connects Europe to Asia and the Middle East via the Suez canal.
The number of ships seized in the region by Somali pirates fell last year, industry data shows, but the overall number of attempted attacks continues to rise and the raids have become increasingly violent.
Pirates now hold six ships and roughly 176 hostages, the EU says, again well down from last year.
But average ransoms continue to rise - now about $5 million compared to $4 million last year.
The Somali community in South Africa will also join efforts to win the release of the two South African nationals.
"We will be holding a community meeting on Friday to discuss a strategy on how to start a campaign for the release of the two kidnapped South African nationals," Abdullahi Ali Hassan, a Somali community leader in Cape Town, told OnIslam.net.
South Africa is home to a large Somali community, which owns several mosques across the country.
Abdullahi said Somalis are grateful to South Africans for having assisted them during the famine which ravaged their Horn of Africa country.
In a gesture of goodwill, we will try our best to ensure that the two South Africans are freed, Abdullahi said.
During the famine that ravaged Somalia in 2011, the South African government donated R8-Million to help starving victims.
Somalia has been without an effective government since the ouster of Barre in 1991.Since then, the Horn of Africa country sank into deadly violence that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.