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Video shows pirates pursued, captured

  • Story Highlights
  • Video shows French military firing on fleeing pirates after hijacking off Somalia
  • Six pirates were captured, four escaped, all 30 hostages were freed
  • Pirates boarded luxury yacht The Ponant on April 4
  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the operation to chase down pirate gang
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- Dramatic video released by the French defense ministry this week shows French helicopters pursuing Somali pirates through the desert as they tried to escape following a weeklong hijacking.

A released hostage on board the Jeanne d'Arc navy frigate on Saturday.

The military managed to apprehend six of the 10 pirates, who now sit aboard a French military vessel awaiting word on their fate.

The hostages, 30 crew members of a luxury French yacht, are back in France where they are recovering from their ordeal.

None of the hostages was physically harmed, though one crew member said they did not sleep much because they were in constant fear of the pirates.

The French military video shows the pirates driving through the desert in two vehicles, with French helicopter gunships in pursuit.

The gunships fired on the vehicles and disabled one of them. With their truck stuck on the desert road, the pirates tried to escape on foot, but the chasing French military apprehended six of them. The other four, in the second vehicle, managed to get away.

The military said the pirates were trying to make off with ransom money, which French media reports put at $2 million. The ship's owners have neither confirmed nor denied reports of a ransom; the French government says no public money was involved. Video Watch the pirates being chased down »

No passengers were aboard the 288-foot white yacht, named The Ponant, when it was seized on April 4 off Somalia. Acting on the orders of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, French authorities quickly caught up with the hijacked vessel.

A French navy warship and reconnaissance aircraft followed it and the French government sent an elite intervention group to the region to reinforce negotiations with the pirates.

The pirates released the crew members Friday.

The six arrested pirates are being held on board a French warship while the government determines whether they can be taken to France for trial.

The military gave the released crew members medical examinations and debriefings before flying them back to France aboard a military jet.

Though they weren't harmed, the crew members said they were constantly afraid they would be. One unidentified crew member -- a waiter aboard the yacht -- said the captain tried to hide female crew members out of fear the pirates might rape them.

"We were afraid that they were going to touch the girls," said the unnamed man, interviewed by the French military. "So the captain just gave protection for them." Video Watch the freed captives arrive on a ship »

Sarkozy -- who ordered the rescue of the crew and the apprehension of the pirates -- was on hand to greet the rescued crew members as they stepped off the plane, though he made no remarks.

After shaking hands with Sarkozy, the crew members were mobbed by their family and friends on the tarmac.

The three-masted yacht normally sails on luxury cruises around the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea. It is now on its original course toward the Mediterranean.


The captain said damage was confined to two broken windows, shot out as one of the pirates was handling his rifle, and general mess from the pirates' weeklong stay on board.

French military officers have said they hope the successful return of the crew members, and the capture of some of the pirates, sends a warning to other would-be hijackers along the Somali coast. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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