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Latest update : 2009-04-11

French special forces, on mission on Friday to free five hostages on the French yacht Tanit held by Somali pirates, may have accidently shot dead one of the hostages, French Defence Minister Hervé Morin said on Saturday.

AFP - French Defence Minister Herve Morin did not rule out Saturday that French special forces might inadvertently have been responsible for a hostage's death during a release operation off Somalia.

"There will be a judicial inquiry and therefore an autopsy. One cannot exclude that during the exchange of fire between the pirates and commandos the shot was French," Morin told Europe 1 radio.

Morin's comments came a day after French commandos stormed a yacht that had been seized by Somali pirates, freeing four hostages aboard.

But the fifth hostage, the yacht's owner Florent Lemaçon, was killed in the operation, along with two of the pirates. Three other pirates were taken prisoner.

The four ex-hostages, Lemaçon's wife Chloe, their three-year-old son Colin and two other adults -- are due in Paris on Sunday aboard a French-chartered plane, Morin separately told AFP.

He said the French government had earlier offered the pirates a ransom because of the child.

"It was unimaginable he could be taken hostage for a long time in that area," he said.

The defence minister refused to specify the sum offered, but the pirates at any rate rejected it.

The Tanit was captured in the Gulf of Aden last Saturday as it headed for Zanzibar, in one of a rash of pirate attacks off the east African coast.

Date created : 2009-04-11