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French Yacht Sea-Jacked, NE Somalia

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 11, 2009 11:20 AM

Published: 2009-04-11 11:20:09
Countries: France , Somalia

This report has been updated as more information was received

French yacht "Tanit" was sea-jacked one week ago, on Saturday 4 April, around 640 km off Ras Hafun in Northeast Somalia. On board were the owners, French couple Chloe and Florent Lemacon, their son Colin (aged 3) and two male friends.

The family left Vannes on France's Atlantic coast in July last year aboard their 42ft flush-decked Colin Archer cutter, and were heading for the archipelago of Zanzibar before being seized. Florent Lemacon had told his father just before the attack that they had lost the use of the engine. They said that they knew the risks and had taken what they considered to be the least dangerous route through the northern Indian Ocean. Unluckily for them the pirates seem now to have turned their attention southward, just where they were sailing.

The father also told French press that that the crew were experienced sailors who knew the risks. He added that they are penniless, unemployed liveaboards with no means of paying a ransom.

This is the third yacht that has been hijacked by Somali pirates in as many weeks, making 2009 already the worst for yachts in terms of the number of yachts seized.

Writing on their internet blog two weeks before the hijacking, Chloe and Florent Lemacon said that they had started sailing with the lights off to avoid detection. "We are in the middle of the piracy zone, but so far there is nothing to report.

"The danger is there and has indeed become greater over the past months, but the ocean is vast. The pirates must not be allowed to destroy our dream," they wrote.

The French navy had strongly advised Tanit's crew against travelling to Kenya and warned them of the serious risk posed by pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia, an army spokesman said.

ECOTERRA Intl. stated that their staff are already now working together with clan-elders, powerful local leaders and authorities to secure an unconditional and immediate release of these innocent hostages, and added: "For the traditional Somali leaders such hostage taking including a wife and small child is absolutely unacceptable."