French marines repel new pirate attack on trawlers

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French marines on board two tuna trawlers in the Indian Ocean opened fire to repel a dawn pirate attack on Tuesday, the second such incident in a week.

Shipping firm Saupiquet said that marines fired warning shots at two pirate skiffs pursuing the trawlers Via Avenir and Via Mistral, travelling together some 500 nautical miles (900 kilometres) from the Somali coast.

The company, based in France's western Brittany region, said the launches, carrying four or five pirates, appeared to have dropped the chase.

The two ships are part of a 10-strong French tuna fleet currently operating in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia under the protection of a 60-strong squad of marines.

On Saturday, the marines opened fire after a trawler came under attack north of the Seychelles, where coastguards later captured two of the pirate vessels.

It was the first time the marines had opened fire on pirates.

The French anti-piracy operation was put in place at the request of ship owners and is distinct from both the European Union and NATO anti-piracy operations in the region.

Spanish fishing vessels operating in the same region have called for similar protection measures but Madrid has so far refused.

Somali pirates are currently holding four foreign vessels and 111 seamen, according to environmental protection group Ecoterra International.

There have been 174 such attacks since the start of the year, 49 of them successful hijackings.


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