From a distance the large ship on the horizon looked like the perfect target, ripe for a successful spot of piracy.

But as Somali pirates sped toward the vessel sailing near the Seychelles Islands on Sunday, they were horrified to see two boats and a helicopter set off from their target and launch their own counter-attack.

They had failed to spot iin the dazzling sun, that the "merchant ship" they thought they were intercepting was actually a French naval ship bristling with cannons, radar technology and armed commandos.

When the three pirate boats were spotted heading toward them the frigate Nivose, one of the ships patrolling the region as part of the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalanta, headed into the sun to camouflage its true identity before turning to confront its attackers.

When the boats were close enough, Lt. Commander Jean-Marc le Quilliec sent his commandos out on outboards, with a helicopter to provide air support.

The helicopter fired two warning shots to stop the three boats from fleeing and within minutes the 11 pirates had surrendered.

Two of the attack boats were small skiffs which the pirates used as attack vessels and the third was a 30-foot mothership, used to transport supplies such as petrol, water and food.

Only one pirate was left on board the mother ship which had nothing on board except fuel and potates, according to Lt. Commander le Quilliec.

"He apparently thought the pirates had hijacked us," he said.

Click here for more on this story from the Times of London.