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Hostages on Le Ponant freed by pirates

After a nerve-wracking week, the crew of the French luxury 288-foot yacht Le Ponant were released after being held hostage by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The negotiations ended peacefully without fatalities or armed intervention on April 11, according to the Agence France-Presse. The 30 crewmembers were transferred in French helicopters to Djibouti in Eastern Africa where France has its largest overseas military base. They were then greeted by Djiboutian officials and Dominique Decherf, the French ambassador to the country before boarding a plane back to Paris. They arrived at approximately 7:35 p.m., according to the report.

“We were completely cut off from the rest of the world, “said the ship’s captain Patrick Marchesseau in the release. He later told officials the captors had treated them well, feeding them and displaying no violence.

The crew was greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as their family and friends at Orly airport in Paris. Meanwhile, French commandos have seized six of the estimated 20 Somali pirates who tried to escape in a 4x4 vehicle after they had released their hostages, according to the report. The French military confirmed that the country did not pay a ransom, but did not rule out the possibility that CMA-CGM, the French charter company that owns Le Ponant might have paid the pirates.

Somalia’s pirates have seized over two dozen ships in 2007, according to CNN, and discussions within the United Nations have begun to resolve this problem as soon as possible.

-Elizabeth Ellis