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Pirates Attack French Yacht and Take Crew Hostage

By James Greenwald last modified Apr 05, 2008 05:41 AM

Published: 2008-04-05 05:41:34
Topics: Piracy & Security
Countries: Eritrea , France , Oman , Seychelles , Sri Lanka , Sudan , Thailand , United Arab Emirates , Yemen , Djibouti , Egypt


Received Friday, 4 April 2008 16:32:00 GMT

PARIS, April 4, 2008 (AFP) - Pirates boarded a French luxury cruise yacht off the coast of Somalia and took its entire crew hostage on Friday, a French military spokesman said. The yacht, the Ponant, "was the victim of an act of piracy early this afternoon as it was sailing between Somalia and Yemen," spokesman Christophe Prazuck said. The 850-tonne three-masted yacht was carrying around 30 crew but had no passengers on board at the time, Prazuck said. "As far as we know, no shots have been fired," he said. French military forces and a US-led task force, both present in the area, "were able to confirm the situation and are following its evolution," he added. France has a patrol aircraft based in Djibouti, as well a dispatch boat.

French cruise operator CMA-CGM confirmed one of its boats had been seized in the Gulf of Aden, on its way from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean, and that "the majority" of its crew were French nationals. "The ship is indeed the Ponant, property of the CMA-CGM group. We were informed that there were pirates on board," a company spokesman said. Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office said the government had launched a piracy alert plan. The foreign ministry said it had made contact with the ship's owner and was trying to reach the crew's relatives.

The 32-cabin Ponant, fully equipped with lounges, bar and restaurant, is one of three operated by the Marseille-based firm, which describes itself as France's leading cruise provider. With a capacity for 64 passengers, it offers several cruises in the Gulf region, including between Egypt and Aqaba in Jordan, and off the coast of Oman, according to the company's website. Pirate attacks are frequent off Somalia's 3,700-kilometre (2,300-mile) coastline, prompting the International Maritime Bureau to advise sailors to steer clear. The French navy was called on in recent months to escort World Food Programme boats through Somali waters, after two of the agency's boats were stolen.

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