French yacht skipper ‘killed by special forces’ during rescue from pirates

By Calvin Palmer

The French skipper of a yacht captured by Somali pirates was shot by French commandos during the rescue operation last month, according to a radio report today.

Florent Lemaçon was hit by a bullet when the commandos stormed the Tanit on April 10 to free him, his wife, three-year-old son and two friends.

It was unclear whether the 28-year-old was accidentally shot by the French rescuers or executed by his captors. Two pirates were killed during the operation.

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

The bullet that killed him has not been found but it pierced his hand before hitting him in the face, the report said.

The French soldier who opened fire immediately told his superiors that he had shot the lethal round, it said.

French special forces launched the rescue after eavesdropping on the pirates suggested they were “becoming nervous and talked about making an example out of the hostages”. The pirates had captured the Tanit on April 6.

After successfully overpowering three pirates on deck, the commando force stormed the Tanit’s cramped cabin, where two armed pirates were holding the five hostages.

“Thanks to special techniques, the special forces knew exactly where each person was located and with a loudspeaker ordered the French hostages to remain still during the assault. But to protect his son and his wife, Florent Lemaçon put his hand in front of his face,” said the report.

“This was a reflex gesture that triggered another reflex, to open fire, and he collapsed in his wife’s arms.”

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.

He said that the order to free the hostages was made after all other options had been exhausted.

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and AFP.]

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