Elite troops ready to intervene over pirated French yacht: defence source
France has sent an elite army unit to east Africa which will be ready to intervene if negotiations fail with pirates holding a luxury French cruise yacht.
PARIS, April 8, 2008 - France has sent an elite army unit to east Africa which will be ready to intervene if negotiations fail with pirates holding a luxury French cruise yacht off Somalia, a defence source said Monday.
Troops from the GIGN unit -- the French gendarmerie's elite
counter-terrorism and hostage rescue unit -- were sent to Djibouti where they
will remain until further orders, the source said.
The 32-cabin yacht Ponant, with around 30 crew members, was captured
Friday. On Monday it lay anchored off the northeastern Somali region of
Puntland, with a navy French vessel keeping a close watch on it.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Sunday that "we've made
contact and the matter could last a long time."
He did not rule out the payment of a ransom to secure the release of the
crew -- 22 French nationals and around 10 Ukrainians.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said there could be no military
intervention unless the safety of the crew could be guaranteed.
One of the GIGN unit's most spectacular interventions was in 1994 when its
men stormed a plane on the runway of Marseille airport, killing four Algerian
hijackers -- who had planned to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower -- and
freeing passengers and crew.