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French Forces Seize Pirates


The French government says its naval forces off the coast of Somalia have captured half a dozen pirates following an operation leading to the release of 30 hostages aboard a tourist yacht that had been seized earlier. Lisa Bryant has more on the operation from Paris.

The Elysee presidential palace says the 30 hostages were released in a operation earlier Friday, bringing to an end a week-long drama. Pirates had seized the boat, Le Ponant, April fourth in the Gulf of Aden, off eastern Africa. Most of the 30 hostages -- all of them crew members -- were French.

French vice-admiral Eduoard Guillaud told French radio the release took place in just over an hour and said there was no ransom involved.

Guillaud said French forces also managed to capture six pirates -- about half the entire gang. He said they had fired warning shots during the operation but did not directly fire at the pirates, who appeared to be fishermen of Somali origin. The rescue operation reportedly took place with the approval of the Somali government.

The French government says the ex-hostages would go home as soon as possible and French President Nicolas Sarkzoy was to meet with family of the French members of the crew.

France had sent an elite force of commandos last week to the region off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Puntland region after roughly a dozen pirates took control of the yacht as it was returning from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean. There were no passengers on board.

Piracy occurs frequently off Somalia's lawless coast, with reports of two dozen or more ships seized last year alone.

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