Somali pirates hijack French yacht in Indian Ocean

6th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A French-flagged yacht with four crew members has been abducted by Somali pirates, says an organisation monitoring piracy in the region.

NAIROBI – Somali pirates have hijacked a French-flagged yacht with four crew members in the Indian Ocean, Ecoterra International, an organisation monitoring piracy in the region, said Monday.

Ecoterra International said in a statement that the attack took place on Saturday "around 640 kilometres off Ras Hafun in Northeast Somalia."

There was no immediate confirmation from the French naval forces engaged in anti-piracy operations in the area but Ecoterra International said brief satellite phone contact was made with the ship on Sunday.

"The abducted yacht is currently sailing with eight knots towards the Somali Puntland coast. Local marine observers stated that the attack was reportedly launched from a captured Yemeni fishing vessel," the statement said.

The number of attacks by ransom-seeking Somali pirates and their success rate had dipped since the start of the year, owing to an increased international naval presence in the Gulf of Aden and unfavourable seas.

But some pirate groups have ventured far into the Indian Ocean, southeast of Somalia, to target ships further out at sea, away from heavily-patrolled shipping corridors.

In 2008, Somali pirates operating on small skiffs and armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and grappling hooks have attacked more than 130 ships, close to 50 of them successfully.

France launched a rescue operation to free a French luxury yacht, Le Ponant, and its 30 crew on 11 April 2008, and in September dispatched commandos to release a French couple seized by pirates aboard their yacht.

Twelve suspected pirates are currently being held in custody by French authorities, although lawyers have argued that Paris has no jurisdiction to try their cases.

AFP / Expatica

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