updated 4/4/2008 3:09:47 PM ET 2008-04-04T19:09:47

Pirates seized control of a French vessel carrying 30 crew members Friday off the coast of Somalia, the French government and the ship's owner said.

Attackers stormed aboard "Le Ponant" as it returned without passengers from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean Sea, said officials with French maritime transport company CMA-CGM.

The corporate officials said they were in close contact with the French Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement that a cruise boat and its crew had been attacked by pirates.

The ship was in the high seas in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean, the ministry said. At least some of the crew members are French, it said.

Pirates seized more than two dozen ships off the Somali coast last year.

The U.S. Navy has led international patrols to try to combat piracy in the region. Last year, the guided missile destroyer USS Porter opened fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese tanker.

Wracked by more than a decade of violence and anarchy, Somalia does not have its own navy, and a transitional government formed in 2004 with U.N. help has struggled to assert control.

The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy, said in its annual report earlier this year that global pirate attacks rose 10 percent in 2007, marking the first increase in three years.

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