France announced Tuesday its military forces have rescued two French sailors held hostage off the coast of Somalia - waters considered among the world's most dangerous when it comes to pirate attacks. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports for VOA the European Union is considering a possible naval mission to crack down on the piracy.
The order to rescue the two French sailors was given late Monday night by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The French president's office says the French army killed one Somali pirate and captured six others during the mission that freed a couple held hostage for the past two weeks.
At a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Sarkozy issued a warning to other pirates who continue to hold other foreign vessels and crews off Somalia's coast.
Mr. Sarkozy said France would not tolerate a situation where crimes pay. And he delivered a message to the international community: That the number of piracy cases has exploded since the start of the year. These are no longer isolated cases, the president said, but a veritable criminal industry that threatens the fundamental right to free circulation and international trade.
Dozens of attacks by Somalia-based pirates have taken place since the start of the year in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, prompting alarm on the part of foreign fishing and commercial boats. The International Maritime Bureau, a group that surveys piracy, says seizures of ships and sailors are at their highest level in nearly two decades.
Spain's fishermen have decided to move further out to sea where the waters are safer. And French officials will be discussing the problem and what long term measures to take.
During a meeting in Brussels Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to establish a coordination unit to survey the region and possibly send a naval mission to the Horn of Africa to crack down on the attacks.