Africa

EU forces rescue Frenchwoman from pirates off Yemen

Spanish warship SPS Galicia (image EU Navfor)
Image caption The Spanish warship SPS Galicia intercepted the suspects' skiff

A French hostage has been rescued from pirates off Yemen and her captors detained but her husband remains missing, EU defence officials say.

Spanish troops operating with the EU's anti-piracy force, Navfor, intercepted a skiff on Saturday, two days after the hostages' catamaran was found.

The hostage was released and seven suspected pirates were detained, officials said.

The freed hostage was named as Evelyne Colombo by French news agency AFP.

She and her husband Christian Colombo, a former French navy crewman, were experienced sailors who wanted to see the world and were aware of the risks of sailing through the Gulf of Aden, AFP reports.

"She was the only hostage on board the skiff," EU naval spokesman Paul Gelly said. "Her husband was not on board."

Unharmed

The Spanish warship SPS Galicia had tracked the pirate skiff after Navfor received a distress call from the catamaran Tribal Kat, which was found abandoned in waters off Yemen.

After the skiff ignored an order to stop, the commander of the Galicia ordered his men to open fire, and a naval warfare team fired on the boat's engine to disable it.

The skiff was subsequently sunk but the hostage and seven pirates were picked up, the Spanish defence ministry was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Navfor said the freed hostage had not been wounded or injured during the operation, and all the suspected pirates had been detained unharmed.

Somali pirates have targeted shipping, both commercial and pleasure craft, off the Horn of Africa for years.

They currently hold at least 30 vessels and their crews, keeping them moored along the coast of the war-torn country, which has not had a functioning government for two decades.

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