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Pirates dock seized French luxury yacht
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14:26, April 07, 2008

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A French luxury yacht seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden with 30 crew on board has arrived in northern Somalia, officials and fishermen said yesterday.

About 10 pirates stormed the 88-meter Le Ponant on Friday as it returned without passengers from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean Sea. The pirates then guided it down Somalia's eastern coast.

Local fisherman Mahdi Daud Anbuure said that he had seen the ship arriving at the northern town of Eyl and a small boat headed toward it, apparently with supplies.

On Saturday, the French prime minister said he hoped to avoid using force to free the crew but no options had been ruled out. There are 22 French citizens, including six women onboard. Other nationalities include Ukrainians.

A French frigate was temporarily diverted from NATO duties and was tracking the yacht, military spokesman Commander Christophe Prazuck said Saturday. He added an airplane dispatched from a French base in Djibouti had flown over the yacht and all appeared calm aboard.

Abdirahman Mohamed Bangah, the Minister for Information in the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland, said he hoped international forces "will rescue this ship" at Eyl, about 500 km north of the capital of Mogadishu.

District commissioner Hareed Iise Umar said fishermen had reported seeing heavily armed pirates heading out from the area nine days ago.

Pirates seized more than two dozen ships off Somalia's coast last year. Denmark's government paid a ransom to win the release in August of the crew of a Danish cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates about two months after they were taken captive.

The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy, said earlier this year that global pirate attacks rose 10 percent in 2007, marking the first increase in three years.

Source: China Daily/Agencies



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