Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The French army has sent an elite unit to Africa ahead of a possible confrontation with pirates who have seized a luxury yacht. The special forces task force specialises in freeing hostages and will be stationed at Djibouti until further orders, a defence source said. Around 10 pirates stormed the French-owned ship as it sailed with only crew onboard from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean Sea on Friday. Since then, the pirates have taken it more than 250 miles south along the Somali coast. The crew members, who are still on board, include 22 French citizens, six of whom are women, and 10 Ukranians. The 32-cabin yacht is now at the pirates' lair in the port of Eyl, in the north of the African country.France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed they had made contact with the pirates and did not rule out the possibility of paying a ransom. Meanwhile, the international community has been asked to boost security along the Somali coast, where pirate attacks are common. The International Maritime Bureau's Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre said the gang behind the latest incident could be the same one responsible for other recent attacks. "The UN Security Council or someone must take some form of action to stop these pirates from attacking innocent seafarers," said Noel Choong, the centre's manager. "Whether it's the military or something else, we have to show that we mean business by securing the area. If not, it will just continue."