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French hold six pirates after hostages released

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  • NEW: French troops hold six pirates after release of 30 hostages
  • President Sarkozy says situation resolved without incident
  • French officials had been in negotiations with pirates since Sunday
  • Seized boat was monitored by French Navy warship and aircraft.
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Paris, France (CNN) -- French troops are holding six pirates after the 30-member crew of a luxury yacht hijacked a week ago off Somalia's coast were released, officials said Friday.

The French armed forces resolved the hostage-taking without incident, Sarkozy said in a statement that gave no details.

At a later news conference, the French military said it had captured six of the pirates who had left the ship and returned to the mainland.

The original group of pirates was believe to number between 12 and 16 people.

Sarkozy thanked the French army and other state officials who helped negotiate the release, and said he would again receive members of the hostages' families later Friday.

Pirates seized the 288-foot, three-masted yacht last Friday. No passengers were on board.

French authorities made contact with the pirates on Sunday and sent an elite intervention group to Djibouti, which borders Somalia, to reinforce negotiations, the French Foreign Ministry said.

Authorities also monitored the yacht's movements with a small Navy warship and reconnaissance aircraft, the ministry said.

The white yacht, named "Ponant," sails on luxury cruises around the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea, according to its Web site. The vessel has 32 cabins and four decks, plus lounges, a bar, and a restaurant.

The Ponant -- which translates as "West" in French nautical usage -- is owned by the Marseille, France-based Compagnie des Iles du Ponant.

Twenty-two of the crew are French, Sarkozy's office said. Six were from the Philippines, AP reported.

Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia are common.

The International Maritime Bureau says pirates have seized four vessels, including three tankers, in the same area since February.

The IMB calls some parts of the Somali coast "high-risk areas" for attacks and hijackings, and it warns vessels not making scheduled stops in Somalia to keep as far as possible from the coast. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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