September 11, 2011 / 12:22 PM / 9 years ago

French hostage rescued from pirates after gunfight

* Spanish ship sinks skiff, seven pirates under arrest

* Pirates had killed hostage’s husband-govt source

PARIS/MADRID, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A French woman rescued from pirates was freed after a Spanish navy patrol boat fought a fierce gun battle off the Somali coast, Spain’s defence ministry said on Sunday.

The gunboat spotted the pirates’ skiff on Saturday afternoon and, with the help of a naval warfare team and a helicopter, sank the vessel and rescued the hostage, the ministry said in a statement.

Seven pirates who were on board are now under arrest.

“The Spanish amphibious craft “Galicia” has freed a French hostage...held since Thursday in the south of Yemen, and has arrested the seven pirates responsible,” the statement said.

The woman had been sailing with her husband on a catamaran when pirates attacked. They kidnapped her and killed her husband, throwing his body overboard, according to a French government source.

Contrary to earlier reports, which said four people had been attacked, the couple was not sailing with anyone else, the source added.

The catamaran was found on Thursday by a German frigate. It had left the Yemeni port of Aden on Sept. 4 and was sailing in waters known to be rife with piracy. (Reporting By Patrick Vignal and Elisabeth O’Leary; Writing by Lionel Laurent; Editing by David Cowell)

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