Hostages held by pirates off Somalia freed: France

April 11th, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, April 11 (DPA) As many as 30 hostages held by Somali pirates have been freed, the Elysee Palace in Paris said Friday. Pirates off the coast of Somalia seized the 22 French citizens and eight other nationals on board the luxury yacht Le Ponant a week ago.

The yacht was stormed and taken in the Gulf of Aden by a group of armed men April 4 and was reported to be anchored off the Somali coast, south of the autonomous region of Puntland.

The French government had been in contact with the kidnappers and had also sent a special unit of elite soldiers to Djibouti, some 1,000 km away, to pressure the pirates to reach an early agreement.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy thanked the French security forces and state services for bringing about the hostages’ release “quickly and without incident”.

Further details on the release were not given.

Sarkozy was to meet relatives of the former hostages later Friday.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France would organize the swift repatriation of the former hostages and he added that the international community must mobilize to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somalia coast.

Paris also intends to urge the UN to provide protection for international shipping near the Somali coast.

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