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Pirates attack French navy ship by mistake

A French naval vessel, acting as a command ship for all French forces in the Indian Ocean, has repelled a night assault by Somali pirates and captured several of the attackers after a chase on the high seas, the military said.

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AFP - Somali pirates attempted to storm the flagship commanding French military forces in a night attack in the Indian Ocean after mistaking it for a cargo vessel, the military said here Wednesday.

French sailors saw off the attack and captured five pirates in the incident while no-one was injured, military spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck said.

"The pirates, who because of the darkness took the French ship for a commercial vessel, were on board two vessels and opened fire with Kalashnikovs," he said.

The pirates had tried to storm the 160-metre (525-foot) 18,000-tonne La Somme, a fuel supply ship used as the command centre for all French forces -- ground, sea and air -- in the Indian Ocean region.

The pirates tried to escape when they realised their mistake but were pursued by La Somme, which after an hour-long chase managed to catch one of the skiffs, Prazuck said.

On it they found five men but no weapons, the spokesman said, adding that the pirates had apparently thrown all of the boat's contents overboard.

The world's naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates threatening one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

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