Steer clear of Indian Ocean: French minister

14th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The defence ministry appeals to French nationals to stay away from the pirates-infested Somali cost following the death of a hostage who was killed in a rescue operation on Friday.

PARIS – France's defence minister on Sunday appealed to French nationals to stay away from the pirate-infested Indian Ocean off Somalia, as four hostages freed in a shootout with pirates landed in Paris.

"I am making an appeal, because it is no accident 34 warships are trying to make this zone safe, it is no accident if there are 243 hostages in this immense zone," said Herve Morin.

"I ask our compatriots to give up on the idea of adventuring in this ocean, as vast as it may be," said Herve Morin.

"Because a dream – the dream the Lemacon family had of such an adventure – can be shattered by reality," Morin told France 2 television.

"And this reality is acts of piracy," he added, describing the Indian Ocean as "extremely dangerous."

His comments came two days after French commandos freed Chloe Lemacon, her son Colin and two friends after a shootout with pirates aboard their yacht.

The yacht's owner, 28-year-old Florent Lemacon, was killed in the operation.

Morin spoke of his sadness and bitterness at "having lost one of our own."

But the surviving hostages had acknowledged the risk that the French marines had taken to save them and the seriousness of the situation in which they had found themselves, he added.

The pirates had threatened the child and one of them had been seen pointing a weapon at him, said Morin.

French forces had had no choice but to attempt the rescue, he said.

"The worst thing for them was to see them taken onto Somali territory," he added.

"It is not a success when a family is torn apart, when a wife finds herself a widow” and a child is left without a father.

The yacht was captured 4 April as it headed for Zanzibar, having decided to cross the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast to fulfil a travellers' dream – despite concerns for their safety.

Earlier, announcing an inquiry into the rescue operation, Morin had said that he could not rule out that Lemacon had been killed by French fire.

On Sunday, he promised to reveal the details of the inquiry into the incident once it had been established what had happened.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy would meet the freed hostages, said Morin, and would speak publicly at a moment of his choosing.

The French sailors' ordeal was just one in a rash of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Meanwhile, a US captain held hostage by Somali pirates for five days in the Indian Ocean was rescued Sunday, US officials announced.

Three of the pirates who had been holding were killed and one was captured, said a statement from the US Navy.

AFP / Expatica

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