Pirates seize French yacht off Somali coast
Two French nationals are among those aboard the sailing yacht that was seized in the Gulf of Aden late Tuesday, says French foreign ministry.4 September 2008
MOGADISHU -- Pirates seized a French sailing yacht off the dangerous northern coast of Somalia, where hijackings of vessels has increased in recent months, officials said Wednesday.
The French foreign ministry said two French nationals were aboard the yacht that was seized in the Gulf of Aden, north of the lawless Horn of Africa nation.
The Venezuela-registered Carre d'as - a sixteen-metre leisure boat - was hijacked late Tuesday, a ministry source in Paris told AFP, but it was not immediately clear how many people were aboard the vessel.
Hassan Alore, the minister for natural resources in Somalia's breakaway Puntland region, said the hijackers had commandeered the boat and were taking it to the village of Eyl, a pirate liar south of Puntland's capital Bossaso.
"The pirates already got seven other ships hijacked off the Somalia coast in Eyl village," Alore added, saying the vessel was currently at Calula village east of Bossaso.
"France firmly condemns this act of piracy and calls for the immediate release of the people held on board this yacht. Our prime concern is the safety of our compatriots," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said a crisis meeting had been held Wednesday to begin moves to secure the release of the yacht as quickly as possible.
Since the end of July, eight ships have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, including two Malaysian vessels as well as others from Germany, Iran and Japan.
The waters off Somalia are the most dangerous in the world for pirate activity, with the International Maritime Bureau reporting 24 attacks in the area between April and June 2008.
Of the 24 attacks, 19 occurred in the Gulf of Aden off the country's north coast.
Malaysia sent crack troops and navy ships to the Gulf of Aden following the seizure of its two vessels while the country's shipping giant MISC Berhad has barred its vessels from entering the region.
Malaysia's foreign ministry said the pirates had reportedly demanded a ransom of USD 3 million for the return of the two ships and crew.
In April, Somali pirates seized French luxury sailing ship Le Ponant with its 30 crew, including 22 French nationals, and held them for a week. They were freed by French naval forces who arrested six alleged pirates.
In the same month, gunmen seized a Spanish tuna fishing boat with its 26 crew, who were later released.
France and Spain have said they are seeking allies to create a multinational naval force to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in June authorising foreign warships to enter Somalia's territorial waters with the government's consent to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.
[AFP / Expatica]