A man was shot dead today after he refused to disembark from a yacht in the Indian Ocean that was hijacked by Somali pirates last week.
The man, whose nationality is not known, was killed on his yacht off the coast of the town of Baraawe by pirates who had taken him hostage. Residents said the pirates wanted him to leave his yacht in which he was sailing with at least two others, a woman and a boy.
"The man died instantly and the gunmen took the other hostages onshore. The woman and a boy were taken to jungle areas near the town," said a resident.
Somali pirates hijack vessels on the Indian Ocean, take them to the Somali coast and hold them until money is paid, but the killing of hostages is rare.
"What I know is there was a yacht spotted by local people in southern Somalia, and we are trying to investigate reports of hostages and to verify their nationality," said Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida linked rebel group, controls Baraawe on the southern coast of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation that has been mired in violence since the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.
A spokesman for al-Shabaab had said the man was South African, but South Africa's department of international relations said in a statement that he was not a South African citizen.
The pirates had said last week that the hostages were British. The Foreign Office has said only that it had heard reports of the hijacking, and was still trying to investigate further.