NAIROBI: French soldiers providing protection on board French fishing ships in the Indian Ocean early this morning fired on pirates to repel an attack, sources said.
“Three small launches... (which were) nearly invisible and that we had on the radar at the last moment, chased us,” a member of the crew of the Drennac, one of two fishing French vessels approached by the pirates, told AFP by telephone. The soldiers “at first fired warning shots, then they fired at the target,” he added.
The French army high command said the soldiers had first fired “flares” then “warning shots in the air and in front of the prow of the pirates’ boats” and finally, when the pirates opened
fire “probably using
kalashnikovs”, fired on the skiffs, which “immediately stopped pursuing” their
target. The incident took place 350 kilometres north
of the Seychelles. There
were no casualties on the French side.
The report was confirmed by a western source in the same area. He said that
the pirate skiffs that came under fire returned to a mother ship some 30 metres (90 feet) long “likely an old Asian long-line fishing vessel, the Win Far, which has been under surveillance for the past several months when it was anchored off the Somali coast”.
A Seychelles coastguard vessel, the Topaze, immediately gave chase to the mother ship and it was located on the radar around midday, the same source said. It is the first time that the French soldiers, who have been providing protection since July 1 on board about 10 French fishing ships off the Somalian coast, have opened fire on pirates. Some 60 marines are involved in this French protection measure, which was put in place at the request of ship owners and which is distinct from both the European Union and NATO operations in the region.