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Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 19:42 UK

France charges Somali 'pirates'

The Ponant seen on 5 April from a French military aircraft off northern Somalia
The Ponant's 30 crew members were held hostage for a week

A Paris court has charged six Somalis with taking a French luxury yacht's crew hostage off Africa this month, officials say.

The six were flown to Paris after being detained on Friday by French commandos in a helicopter raid, soon after the 30 hostages were released.

The hostages - 22 French citizens, six Filipinos, a Cameroonian and a Ukrainian - were seized a week earlier.

No passengers were aboard the Ponant at the time of the abduction.

This will be the first trial of its kind in France, says the BBC's Alasdair Sandford.

A senior legal source said Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had given his consent for the suspects to be taken out of the country, our correspondent adds.

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French commandos chase and detain Somali 'pirates'

French authorities are said to consider the matter a criminal one rather than one linked to terrorism.

Police specialising in organised crime are to investigate the case. They are also expected to question the crew members who were flown to Paris earlier this week.

The yacht's 30-member crew was released after its owners apparently paid a ransom of $2m (1m; 1.3m euros).

Threat

Gen Jean-Louis Georgelin, the chief of staff of the French armed forces, described on Saturday how troops moved in after the Ponant came ashore, seized six pirates - said to be part of an original group of 12 - and found part of a probable ransom paid by its owners.

The crew of the Ponant are brought to a French navy vessel after being released  (11 April 2008)
None of the hostages was harmed

The 88-metre (290ft) boat and its 30 crew were seized in the Gulf of Aden on 4 April.

It was then moored near the port of Eyl in the northern Somali semi-autonomous Puntland region, while the pirates held negotiations with its owners, French charter company CMA-CGM.

The suspected pirates are believed to be fishermen and were detained in the village of Jariban.

France has troops in nearby Djibouti and also participates in a multi-national naval force that patrols this part of the Indian Ocean.

Somali coastal waters are known to be among the most hazardous in the world. More than 25 ships were seized there by pirates in 2007.

Somalia has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity.


SEE ALSO
Contact made with yacht pirates
06 Apr 08 |  Africa


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