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French army frees hostages in Somalia
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16:03, September 16, 2008

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A regional maritime official confirmed Tuesday that French nationals who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for two weeks have been freed by the French army in an operation in which one pirate was killed.

Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP) said the French military commandos carried out the operation on Monday where they overpowered the Somali pirates, leading to the death of one pirate.

"One pirate was killed and six others were captured during the operation carried out on Monday by the French military commandos," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

Hijackers captured the Venezuelan-registered French sailing boat Carre d'as in the Gulf of Aden on September 2 and took it to Bargal village, a pirate den in Somalia's northern semi-autonomous Puntland region.

Somalia is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the 166-km Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping channels.

The country has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and hasn't had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

Many attacks take place along Somalia's 3,700 km of largely unpatrolled coast infested by pirates, who operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

In June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing foreign warships to enter Somalia's territorial waters with the government's consent to combat pirates and armed robbery at sea, but it is yet to be implemented.

In recent months, a multinational taskforce based in Djibouti has been patrolling parts of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, where a pirate mothership is believed to be operating.

French commandos carried out an operation in April and captured six pirates after Somali pirates seized a French luxury sailing ship, Le Ponant, with its 30 crew, including 22 French nationals, and held them for a week.

Source:Xinhua



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