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          Hostages freed by French military

          • London, 16 September 2008

          Two hostages held by Somali pirates have been freed by a French military operation after more than two weeks held captive.

          Hostages freed by French military

          The hostages, both French nationals, have been held since their sailing boat was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on 2 September 2008. The operation left one pirate dead with a further six captured.

          ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: "We commend the actions of the French military in helping to end this incident. In our view this is exactly what should be done when a vessel is hijacked and the coastal state, by its own admission, is unable to control this crime. We call upon the international community to use this intervention as a springboard for a more proactive approach to protecting shipping in this region."

          The IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre has so far reported over 50 attacks on vessels this year in Somali waters, predominantly in the Gulf of Aden. Of these there have been over 20 successful hijackings. Over 340 seafarers have been taken hostage.

          The most recent attack saw a Hong Kong registered tanker hijacked on 16 September 2008, along with 22 crew. This ship was reportedly in the Maritime Security Patrol area, a safe corridor for shipping that was set up by coalition forces in the Gulf of Aden.

          Mr Mukundan continued: "If we do not respond robustly against the pirate gangs, these incidents which are now occurring with an alarming frequency are only set to further increase. The coalition navy units in the Gulf of Aden are playing an important role in the prevention of attacks, despite their numerous other duties. We call upon the governments with naval vessels in the area to give greater priority in protecting shipping in this major waterway."

          According to the Piracy Reporting Centre, ten vessels are currently held captive by the pirates. Aboard the ten vessels are 221 crew members who remain hostage. Two hostages held by Somali pirates have been freed by a French military operation after more than two weeks held captive.

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