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Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 18:50 UK

Freed hostages arrive in France

Florent Lemacon (L) and pirates on board the Tanit on 10 April
Florent Lemacon, left, was killed during the rescue effort

Four French survivors of a rescue operation by French troops on a yacht off Somalia have been welcomed home by the Defence Minister Herve Morin.

They flew into a military airbase outside Paris, and included the widow and son of Florent Lemacon - the yacht Tanit's owner who died in the gunfight.

Two pirates were also killed in the operation and three more were captured.

Mr Morin said on Saturday that officials "cannot rule out" that Mr Lemacon was killed by French fire.

But he said the raid was "the best possible decision" and that an investigation would determine what happened on board the Tanit.

French officials said the rescue was launched when talks with the pirates broke down and threats became "more specific".

'Determination'

The operation to free those on board the Tanit - the third time French troops have freed hostages from pirates - began late on Thursday, five days after the yacht was seized, the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

Negotiations with the pirates had begun earlier this week, the president's spokesman said.

French army negotiate on April 10, 2009 with the Somali pirates
France's defence minister praised the rescue effort by French troops

But when talks broke down troops immobilised the vessel before moving in for an operation that lasted six minutes, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby reports from Paris.

"With the threats becoming more and more specific, the pirates refusing the offers made to them and the [yacht] heading towards the coast, an operation to free the hostages was decided upon," the president's spokesman said.

Mr Morin said his country had shown determination to oppose piracy.

"France has shown its determination not to give in to blackmail, [to] prosecute the criminal acts and liberate the hostages every time that a ship under a French flag is captured," he said.

Escaping consumerism

Earlier in the week, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had left open the possibility that troops could launch an effort to free the French hostages, telling reporters French officials knew the location of the Tanit.

However, it also emerged that the families on board the yacht, which was reported to be heading down to Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, were urged not to travel through the Gulf of Aden.

We have got rid of the television and everything that seemed superfluous to concentrate on what is essential
Florent Lemacon describing his family's journey

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said Florent Lemacon and his wife Chloe were "repeatedly warned" not to travel through the area.

"It is difficult to understand why these warnings were not heeded," spokesman Eric Chevallier said.

The couple had refurbished the Tanit, a 12.5m (41ft) boat, and given up jobs in a bid to escape consumer society and navigate a route along the African coast to Zanzibar.

Speaking to French newspaper Ouest France, Mr Lemacon said they wanted to change their priorities in life.

"We don't want our child to receive the sort of education that the government is concocting for us. We have got rid of the television and everything that seemed superfluous to concentrate on what is essential," he said.



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