PARIS - A French couple held hostage by Somali pirates for two weeks have been freed by the French army in an operation in which one pirate was killed, the Elysee presidential palace announced Tuesday.
"One pirate was killed and six others were captured" during the special forces operation late Monday ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy, a statement said.
"The president is happy with the success of this operation" and sent "warm congratulations" to the troops who took part, it said.
Sarkozy was to make a statement later in the press room at the Elysee.
Hijackers captured the 16-metre (52-foot) Venezuelan-registered French yacht Carre d'as in the Gulf of Aden on September 2 and took it to Bargal village in Somalia's northeastern semi-autonomous Puntland region.
The freed hostages, Jean-Yves Delanne and his wife Bernadette, are sailing enthusiasts who have lived for many years in Tahiti. When they were attacked they were taking the boat from Australia to La Rochelle in France where it was to have been sold.
The Somali pirates called for payment of a ransom and the release of Somalis captured during a French operation in April.
French commandos captured six pirates on April 11 after Somali pirates seized a French luxury sailing ship, Le Ponant, with its 30 crew, including 22 French nationals, and held them for a week. The six have since been held in the Paris region.
European foreign ministers on Monday agreed to set up a "coordination unit" to help tackle the growing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the most dangerous waters in the world, with the possibility of an EU naval mission in future.
"The resources of piracy have developed horrendously," said Bernard Kouchner, foreign minister of France which holds the EU's rotating presidency, speaking of very mobile, hi-tech operations involving small and large boats.
"We are responding to a call from the UN Security Council which called for international protection," said Kouchner.