Navy commandos stormed a French sailboat held by pirates off the Somali coast in an assault triggered by threats the passengers would be executed. But one hostage was killed in the operation, demonstrating the risks of a military operation against sea bandits.
Four hostages, including a small child, were freed Friday, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said. Two pirates also were killed and three others were taken prisoner. They are to be brought to France for criminal proceedings, joining 12 pirates already jailed and awaiting trial here.
It was the third time the French have freed hostages from the hands of pirates but the first time a hostage had been killed.
In a break with French government policy, authorities proposed paying a ransom during 48 hours of fruitless talks, but the pirates, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rejected the offer, Morin said, without divulging a sum.
The French also offered the pirates a French naval officer to hold in exchange for a mother and child but that too was rejected, the minister said.
A grim-faced Morin, speaking at a news conference, said, "Negotiations were leading nowhere, and the boat was approaching the coast.