A French hostage died on Friday and four others were freed when French forces attacked pirates who had seized their yacht off Somalia, President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said in a statement on Friday.

Two pirates were also killed in the military operation and three others seized.

The sailing boat, the Tanit, which was carrying two couples and a 3-year-old child was seized by the pirates far from the coastline of the African country on April 4.

Sarkozy's office said the child was saved by its forces but gave no details of who had died.

The statement said the French navy established contact with the pirates on Thursday. It added that a decision to launch a rescue operation was made after the pirates refused to accept their terms and tried to sail toward the coast.

During the operation, a hostage sadly died, the statement said, adding: (Sarkozy) confirms France's determination not to give into blackmail and to defeat the pirates.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer)