U.S. tugboat latest victim of Somali pirates

Saturday, April 11, 2009

According to the head of Kenyan seafarer's program, Somali pirates have hijacked another vessel from the United States.

Map showing the location of the Gulf of Aden, located between Yemen and Somalia, the site of the most recent Pirate hijacking.
Image: commons:User:NormanEinstein.

An American-owned tugboat from Italy along with its 16 member crew was hijacked around 11 am EST on Saturday in the Gulf of Aden.

The Italian Ambassador, Pierandrea Magistrati, confirmed that "there is a boat that has been hijacked, I believe by Somali pirates." Additionally, Shona Lowe, a spokeswoman at NATO's Northwood maritime command center reported that the Italian-flagged tugboat was hijacked this morning off of Somalia's northern coast.

Lowe also confirmed that Italian government officials along with the company that owned the tugboat were trying to secure the release of the crew, ten of which were Italians.

Andrew Mwangura, the head of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, said that maritime industry sources also reported that the U.S. tugboat was towing two barges at the time it was attacked. The contents of those barges is not known at this time.

Meanwhile, U.S. Captain Richard Phillips of the U.S. Maersk Alabama is still being held hostage, for a fourth day, by four other Somali pirates. Phillips, who voluntarily surrendered himself to the pirates in order to protect his crew, is being held in a lifeboat despite an attempt to escape.