Swiss hostages freed after elite police storm yacht

Greek soldiers help one of the Swiss children to safety after her ordeal Keystone

Security police in Greece have stormed a yacht, killing a gunman who had been holding hostage a Swiss family of five and the boat's Greek captain. All the hostages were freed unharmed after their 14-hour ordeal.

This content was published on July 26, 2000 - 09:01

Frogmen from Greek coastguard vessels shot dead the Czech gunmen in an exchange of fire, according to the minister for the Greek Merchant Marine, Christos Papoutsis. He identified the Czech man as 38-year-old Frantisek Veseli.

He said that Veseli had arrived in the Greek port of Thessaloniki from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, on June 26.

One of the frogmen was shot in the stomach and hospitalised in a serious condition during the exchange of fire.

The gunman had seized control of the yacht at dawn on Wednesday as it left the southern Greek port of Nafplion (Nafplio).

The man, who was described by the Greek authorities as mentally unstable, had demanded to be taken to the Moroccan port of Casablanca.

Coastguard vessels had trailed the yacht "Erato" throughout the day before divers, belonging to an elite unit, launched their attack.

The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry named the Swiss family members as Andreas Hagger (34), his sister Corinne Hagger-Mitchell (26), his wife Gabriella (34) and their children Jasmin (5) and Joel (3).

It is understood Andreas Hagger's spouse is wheelchair-bound due to a muscular disorder.

A spokeswoman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry confirmed that the family of five was unharmed and in good spirits, despite the ordeal. She said that a Swiss embassy official from Athens would visit the three adults and two young children shortly.

The Swiss tourists had been vacationing in Nafplion for about a week, and had hired the yacht for a tour of the area. They had been on similar trips with the same captain in previous years.

A Swiss foreign ministry official said: "We had expected that the hostages would eventually be freed. It's very hard for a hostage taker to persist in such difficult circumsatnces, particularly at sea."

swissinfo with agencies

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