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French hostages freed in gunbattle with pirates

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  • French troops rescue 2 French hostages in a gunfight with Somali pirates
  • One kidnapper killed in operation
  • Attacks by pirates have increased dramatically off coast of Somalia
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- French troops rescued two French hostages in a gunfight with Somali pirates that left one of the kidnappers dead, officials said Tuesday.

Six kidnappers were also seized in the operation, personally ordered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to free the men who were abducted from a sailboat in the the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali coast, on September 2.

Attacks by pirates have increased dramatically in the waters off Somalia's northern coast in the past year, prompting the U.S. and other nations to send to step up patrols in the region.

Three ships were hijacked on August 21 in that area, the "worst number of attacks" in a single day in many years, Capt. Pottengal Mukudan of the International Maritime Bureau told CNN.

The ships attacked that day flew under an Iranian flag, a Japanese flag and a German flag.

On August 19, pirates boarded a Malaysian tanker in the Gulf of Aden, said Noel Chong, head of the International Chamber of Commerce's Piracy Reporting Centre.

After the spate of attacks, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain announced that it would begin patrolling a newly established shipping corridor in the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to protect international shipping.

Canada announced in August that it was dispatching a warship to the area to protect U.N. aid ships after more than two dozen reported pirate attacks in the region this year. The ship will remain in the region until the end of September, the Canadian defense minister said at the time.

The International Maritime Bureau said in April that 49 pirate attacks on ships were reported in the first three months of 2008, compared with 41 for the same period last year. It recorded 263 pirates attacks last year, up from 239 the year before and the first increase in three years.

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