US crew retakes ship hijacked by pirates; captain held hostage

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The crew of a United States-flagged ship managed to retake the craft from four Somali pirates on Wednesday, but the boat's captain is reported to be held hostage in a lifeboat. According to the authorities, a US destroyer and six other vessels were dispatched to the scene.

The ship involved in the incident was the 17,000-tonne Maersk Alabama, which was headed to Mombasa, Kenya. It was attacked by Somali pirates about five hundred kilometers from Somalia's coast, according to the CEO and president of Maersk, John Reinhart.

Ken Quinn, the ship's second mate, said that the four pirates were in the vessel's lifeboat with the captain, having sunk their boat after seizing the Alabama.

The ship's crew had taken one of the pirates hostage in an attempt to swap him for the captain, but the ploy failed.

"We had a pirate we took and kept him for 12 hours," Quinn said to CNN. "We tied him up and he was our prisoner." The crew returned the pirate, but the pirates did not release the captain. "So now we're just trying to offer them whatever we can, food, but it's not working too good," Quinn said.

The Maersk Alabama was carrying food aid to the Kenyan port of Mombassa when it was attacked by the pirates. Twenty US crew members were aboard. According to Quinn, the crew did not have any weapons, but pirates were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles. The crew locked themselves in the steering gear compartment of the ship, and remained there for twelve hours. Quinn says that the pirates "got frustrated because they couldn't find us."

Piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden is rife: this is the sixth ship to be seized by Somali pirates in the area in a week. The last time an American ship was attacked by African pirates was in 1804.


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