Reliable international news agencies including the BBC are reporting that the crew of the French flagged yacht Le Ponant
, seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on April 4, has been freed and that a French commando force has carried out a helicopter raid against a group of Somali pirates.
The 850-tonne luxury yacht and her 30-man crew had been forced by pirates to sail to Eyl in the northern Somali semi-autonomous Puntland region, where she dropped anchor
off the port. It has been reported that the pirates demanded and were paid a US$2 million ransom by the yacht's French operators, CMA-CGM.
General Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of staff of the French armed forces, has said the pirates released the hostages without incident earlier on Friday, one week after their capture. Once the crew had been brought ashore safely, French attack helicopters tracked the pirates, believed to be fishermen, to the village of Jariban and moved in when they saw some of them attempting to flee the scene, the general said.
The governor of Mudug, Abdul Kadir Ahmed, said three bodies had been recovered after the operation and that eight people had been wounded in the raid. France
denied there had been any casualties at the same time as confirming that no public money
was paid to the pirates. Describing the involvement of French troops as "intervention, not pulverisation", General Georgelin added that his troops had also recovered from the scene "interesting bags" and "some of the ransom".
A sniper disabled the engine
of the get-away car, while another helicopter dropped off three French commandos who captured six of the 12 pirates. The pirates "gave themselves up without too much difficulty", the general said, adding that those captured would be handed over to French justice officials.
In a statement issued in Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier thanked the French military for their role in ending the crisis, expressing his deep gratitude to the armed forces and all the state services which enabled a rapid and peaceful solution to this hostage-taking. France
has troops in nearby Djibouti and also participates in a multi-national naval force that patrols this part of the Indian Ocean