France admits military killed hostage in pirate shootout

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The French government Wednesday admitted responsibility for the death of a yachtsman shot by French commandos during a raid to free him and his wife from pirates off Somalia last year.

The state "will take full responsibility" for the death of Florent Lemacon in the shoot-out on his yacht in the Indian Ocean on April 10, 2009, Defence Minister Herve Morin said in a statement.

The statement cited a report issued on Wednesday from a judicial investigation which "determined that the projectile that killed Florent Lemacon... was fired by a French serviceman."

"Ballistic examinations... confirmed by other evidence allowed it to be established that the shot that caused the death of Florent Lemacon was of military origin," wrote the state prosecutor in the western city of Rennes, Herve Pavy.

Four hostages including Lemacon's wife Chloe were freed in the operation.

The government statement said Morin "regrets most sincerely that Florent Lemacon lost his life during this operation which, whatever precautions may be taken, always bears a certain risk".

The government had offered compensation to Chloe Lemacon but the widow had refused to accept it until the state officially admitted it was to blame for her husband's death.

© 2010 AFP

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