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French hostages held by Somali pirates freed

Two French nationals held hostage by Somali pirates for two weeks have been freed by the French army in an operation in which one pirate was killed.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2008 10:50 IST

Two French nationals held hostage by Somali pirates for two weeks have been freed by the French army in an operation in which one pirate was killed, the Elysee presidential palace announced on Tuesday.

"One pirate was killed and six others were captured" during the operation late on Monday ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy, a statement said.

"The president is happy with the success of this operation" and sent "warm congratulations" to the troops who took part, it said.

Sarkozy was to make a statement later on Monday in the press room at the Elysee.

Hijackers captured the 16-metre 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.

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.

European foreign ministers on Monday agreed to set up a "coordination unit" to help tackle the growing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia, with the possibility of an EU naval mission in future.

"The resources of piracy have developed horrendously," said Bernard Kouchner, foreign minister of France which holds the EU's rotating presidency, speaking of very mobile, hi-tech operations involving small and large boats.

"We are responding to a call from the UN Security Council which called for international protection," said Kouchner.