From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Apr 10 2009 - 16:03:27 EDT
France frees yacht off Somalia, hostage killed
Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:46pm GMT
* French special forces storm boat seized off Somalia
* One French hostage, two pirates killed
* Four hostages saved, including 3-year-old boy
(Adds further details)
By Crispian Balmer
PARIS, April 10 (Reuters) - A French hostage was killed and four others were
freed on Friday when French forces attacked pirates who had seized their
yacht off Somalia, officials said.
Two pirates were shot dead during the military assault and three were
Pirates seized the sailing boat Tanit, carrying two couples and a 3-year-old
boy at the time, far from the coast of the east African country on April 4.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said the father of the child, Florent
Lemacon, died during Friday's rescue mission, which lasted a few minutes.
A military official said elite forces shot dead two pirates who were on deck
when they stormed the boat.
Lemacon had been in the cabin at the time and it was not clear if he was
killed in the crossfire or deliberately shot by one of his captives. The
four French survivors were unharmed and put on a navy vessel bound for
France has taken a leading role in international efforts to halt rampant
hijackings off Somalia and its forces have captured at least 60 pirates
since April 2008, bringing several of them to Paris for eventual trial.
"France will never give into pirates' blackmail or to terrorism," Morin told
a news conference.
The French navy made contact with the pirates on Thursday and decided to
launch the rescue bid after the gang refused to accept an offer of a ransom
and tried instead to sail towards the coast.
"We proposed everything we were able to offer, enabling them reach to land.
We even offered them a ransom," Morin said, declining to say how much money
was put forward.
It was the third time in a year that the French military had intervened
after a French-registered yacht was captured, and the first time a hostage
Chloe and Florent Lemacon left France with their son Colin last July aboard
the Tanit, writing about their adventures in a blog --
They picked up another couple along the way and were heading towards the
Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
The French Foreign Ministry said earlier this week the French navy had urged
the Lemacons not to sail through the Gulf of Aden but that the warning had
Morin said French sailors should avoid the area.
"I repeat in the clearest manner and with the most forthright warning to any
of our citizens who are thinking about venturing into this area of the
Indian Ocean, I ask them to forget it," he said.
The Lemacons mentioned the risk posed by pirates in their blog, but shrugged
off the threat.
"The danger exists but the ocean remains huge. The pirates must not destroy
our dream," they said in a post from January.
(Additional reporting by Clotaire Achi; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)
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