Kidnapped Crew on yacht Le Ponant Alive and Well

Le Ponant under sail
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All 32 crew members on board the 288 foot luxury French superyacht captured by Somali pirates at the weekend are alive and being well treated, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday citing the country's embassy in France.

Le Ponant, owned by one of France's largest ship operators CMA-CGM was hijacked en route to the Mediterranean. It was not carrying any passengers, but had a crew of 22 French sailors as well as 10 Ukrainian and Korean crew members.

'According to information from the Embassy, the ship seized by pirates is still anchored off the south coast of Somali. The first communication with the pirates confirmed that the crew are alive, in good health and are being well treated,' the ministry said in a statement.

The French Radio station Europe 1 said the pirates holding the crew are rumoured to belong to a group called the Somali Marines, who were responsible for kidnapping a French journalist in December.

'Those people don't care about politics,' the journalist, Gwen Le Gouil, told the station. 'They know only one law, and that is money.'

The Somali Marines are known to be well-armed and prepared to use middlemen to negotiate for long periods to procure as large a ransom as possible.

The French authorities, who have made contact with the pirates, said they were prepared to pay a ransom. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been quoted as saying: 'The case is likely to be lengthy. It is important that our contact is fruitful and we must do everything to avoid bloodshed.'

A French frigate and a team of French commandos are reported to have been sent to the area to reinforce the group negotiating the hostages' release.