• France's news in English

French skipper killed after pirate attack

AFP · 12 Sep 2011, 10:40

Published: 12 Sep 2011 10:40 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Pirates who attacked a yacht in the Gulf of Aden killed its French skipper before abandoning it, a source close to the family said on Sunday, the day after the dead man's wife was found unharmed.  

Christian and Evelyne Colombo's family was informed overnight that the 55-year-old was killed during the attack and his body thrown overboard before their catamaran was found abandoned on Thursday, the same source said.  

A German warship found the couple's catamaran, the Tribal Kat, adrift in waters off Yemen on Thursday after it broadcast a mayday appeal for help.  

There were signs of struggle, including bullet holes and blood stains, and no one was on board, prompting commanders from the EU's anti-piracy naval task force Atalanta to launch an air and sea search for the attackers.  

The French frigate Surcouf then detected a suspect vessel and on Saturday the Spanish warship SPS Galicia chased it down, storming the skiff, rescuing Colombo's widow and arresting seven alleged pirates. 

The Spanish defence ministry said when the skiff ignored an order to stop, the commander of the Galicia ordered his men to open fire. "At that time, it was discovered that they had a hostage on board, who was a woman," it said.  

"The amphibious ship proceeded to intercept the pirate vessel. The operation involved a helicopter and naval warfare team, who fired on the engine of the boat, to disable it."  

A spokesman for Operation Atalanta, Commander Harrie Harrison, declined to confirm the death, saying they were waiting to be briefed by Evelyne Colombo.  

"He is missing," Harrison said. "We believe he may have died during the assault but we are waiting for the lady to brief us."  

An Atalanta statement said however that: "The other crew member is believed to have been killed when the suspects boarded the yacht."  

A source close to the search said authorities were trying to find the dead skipper's body.  

Christian Colombo was a former French navy crewman and the couple were experienced sailors who wanted to see the world and were passing through the Gulf of Aden en route for the Indian Ocean and eventually Thailand.  

"They knew they were taking a risk and everyone advised them not to go," a relative told AFP on Saturday. One of the couple's daughters, Emilie, posted a message of concern on the blog they were keeping of their high seas adventure.  

"The last I heard from Christian was around a month ago. He was south of Egypt and heading for Malaysia," said the skipper's friend Gerard Navarin, who once helped him set a catamaran speed record off Toulon.  

The waters between Yemen and Somalia are notorious for attacks by pirate gangs, and French yachts have been among the vessels seized in the past. A second yacht went missing at around the same time as the Tribal Kat.  

Story continues below…

Somali pirates frequently seize crew from merchant ships and pleasure craft in the dangerous waters off the conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa and have taken millions of dollars in ransom for their release.  

According to the watchdog Ecoterra, at least 50 vessels and at least 528 hostages are being held by Somali pirates, despite constant patrols by warships from several world powers.  

A French couple was kidnapped from a yacht in September 2008 as it headed through the Gulf of Aden. A ransom was paid, but French commandos later ambushed the pirates, killed one, captured six more and recovered the cash.  

In April 2009, another French yacht was seized. This time special forces troops intervened when the boat was still at sea. In the ensuing gunbattle a French bullet accidentally killed the skipper of the yacht.  

In addition, a French DGSE agent is thought to have been held hostage by Islamist militants in the Somali capital since July 2009.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

2011-09-15 15:52:57 by bramblebush
Why no country has not sent decoy boats crewed with armed commandos to lure these priates in where they can anialate them amazes me.
2011-09-13 04:26:06 by volvoman9
Though horribly sad it still amazes me that pleasure craft continue to ply these routes. Bravo to the French Navy for engaging these cowards; now if only they were allowed to execute them immediately upon apprehension. It may seem callous but it is a justice they will understand. Why do we in the west insist on pandering to these barbarian criminals. The gun is all they know.
Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available