Somali official: pirates have docked hijacked French boat

>MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – France has made contact with pirates who hijacked a French luxury yacht off Africa’s eastern coast with 30 French and Ukrainian crew members on board, the French foreign minister said Sunday.

About 10 suspected pirates stormed the 288-foot Le Ponant on Friday as it was returning, without passengers, from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. The pirates then guided the vessel down Somalia’s eastern coast.

The hijacking comes amid a surge in piracy in the seas off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, where a weak and impoverished government is unable to patrol its territorial waters. Pirates have seized more than two dozen ships off the country’s coast in the last year, typically demanding high ransoms to free their hostages.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France-Inter radio that France was in contact with the pirates.

“We have established contact, and the case may take a long time,” he said, without providing more details. Asked whether France would consider paying a ransom, he responded, “We’ll see.”