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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
French troops storm seized vessel
French troops storm Pascal Paoli ship

French special forces have recaptured a cargo/passenger vessel that was hijacked to the Corsican port of Bastia by striking union workers.

Commandos abseiled to the deck of the Pascal Paoli from five helicopters as it came into port after being taken over in Marseille late on Tuesday.

The unions are protesting against the privatisation of the debt-ridden state-owned ferry company, the SNCM.

The latest violence follows two days of clashes in Marseille.

The operation to retrieve Pascal Paoli was launched at about 0835 local time (0635 GMT).

Some 50 black-clad commandos swooped down to the deck and took control of the ship in about 10 minutes, according to army sources quoted by the AFP news agency.

The ship then set sail for the mainland, the sources said.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the "fast and efficient" operation by the commandos.

The Pascal Paoli had been seized by some 30 masked but unarmed members of the Union of Corsican Workers. It had no passengers on board.

The unrest broke out on Monday in Marseille following reports that the National Corsica Mediterranean Company was likely to be sold to private investment firm Butler Capital Partners.

Police used tear gas to clear port entrance gates after masked men set up barricades there.

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