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French forces killed hostage

PARIS, May 4 – A French yachtsman taken hostage by Somali pirates was shot and killed by French Special Forces during a rescue operation last month and not by his captors, Europe 1 radio reported Monday.

French troops stormed the Tanit sailing yacht on April 10 and captured three Somali pirates in a bid to free Florent Lemacon, his wife, their three-year-old son and two friends.

Lemacon, 28, was hit by a bullet during the assault but it had remained unclear whether he was shot accidentally by French forces or executed by his captors. Two other pirates were killed during the operation.

Europe 1 said Lemacon was shot while trying to shield his son and wife.

"This was a reflex gesture that triggered another reflex, to open fire, and he collapsed in his wife’s arms," said the radio report, which did not identify its sources.

The bullet that killed Lemacon has not been found but it pierced his hand before hitting him in the face, according to Europe 1.

French special forces decided to launch the rescue after eavesdropping on the pirates showed they were "becoming nervous and talked about making an example out of the hostages" with drastic action.

The report said the Special Forces stormed the Tanit’s cabin where two pirates were holding the five hostages since April 6.

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French prosecutors said last month that they were unable to conclude who fired the shot following an investigation.

Defence Minister Herve Morin said after Lemacon’s death he did not rule out that he may have been the victim of a French bullet and pledged to "tell the truth" about what happened after the investigation had run its course.

France has taken a tough line on pirates caught by its forces in the waters off East Africa, scene of a rash of recent attacks on shipping.

The French navy on Sunday captured 11 suspected Somali pirates on board two skiffs and a mothership off the coast of Kenya.

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