France in contact with Somali pirates holding 30 hostages

April 7th, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by admin  

Sana’a (Yemen), April 7 (DPA) France has made contact with Somali pirates holding 30 mostly French crewmembers hostage off the coast of Somalia, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview. “We’ve made contact and the matter could last a long time,” Kouchner told France Inter radio Sunday. “Our contact needs to be fruitful and we have to do everything to avoid bloodshed.”

Kouchner did not rule out the payment of a ransom to secure the release of the crew - 22 French nationals and about 10 Ukrainians.

The luxury yacht, the Ponant, was sailing from Somalia to the southern Yemeni port of Aden when armed pirates boarded it and took the entire crew hostage Friday.

The ship originated in the Seychelles heading to the Mediterranean Sea and made a refuelling stop at a Somali port Thursday.

The official said contacts were ongoing between the Yemeni Coast Guard Authority and French navy ships operating in the Gulf of Aden to coordinate efforts.

Yemeni coast guard officials said the attack took place outside Yemen’s territorial waters.

Piracy off the Somali coast - which lies at the mouth of the Red Sea - has been rife since the country slid into chaos after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by warlords in 1991.

Frequent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, a major trade route between Asia and Europe, has made those waters the world’s most dangerous for pirate activities.

The International Maritime Bureau has advised vessels that are not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia to keep a distance of 200 nautical miles away from the Somali coast.

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