1 March 2014

Somalia: Pirates Attack Luxury Cruise Liner At Sea

British passengers aboard a luxury cruise liner are recovering after the ship was attacked off the coast of Africa by pirates firing a rocket propelled grenade and machine guns.

The Bahamas-registered Seabourn Spirit was 100 miles off the coast of Somalia when the attack took place.

Terrified passengers were woken by the sound of gunfire as two 25 foot rigid inflatable boats came up to the liner and started shooting as their occupants tried to get on aboard.

There were 18 British passengers on board, but all were reported to be safe after the incident.

The ship was carrying 302 passengers and crew, but there was only one casualty - a crew member suffered minor injuries from flying debris. It is not believed that the bazooka fire struck the ship, but it was hit by small arms fire. The vessel escaped with only minor damage.

The crew used an on-board loud acoustic bang to repel the attackers who finally sped off without managing to board the liner. They did not return fire at the pirates.

The drama happened in an area notorious for pirate activity, leading to warnings to stay away from the coast where bandits board ships and demand ransoms.

David Dingle, a spokesman for the Miami-based company Seabourn Cruises, owned by US cruise giant Carnival, said Britons were aboard but he could not confirm the number.

He said the ship was en route to Mombasa in Kenya on a 16-day cruise out of Alexandria in Egypt.

The 10,000-ton liner offers the height of luxury, with huge suites, marble bathrooms and more than one crew member to each passenger on board. Most of the passengers are believed to be American.

"The ship's crew immediately initiated a trained response and as a result of protective and evasive measures taken the occupants of the small craft were unable to gain access to the ship," Mr Dingle said.

He said that when the rocket propelled grenade-type weapon was fired at the ship, the crew and passengers remained calm.

"The passengers were somewhat surprised and shocked because it happened at 5.30am in the morning and they were woken," he explained.

"The passengers were mustered in a public room, told what was going on and reassured that we were fighting off the attack. They were shocked but no passengers were injured whatsoever.

"We are extremely pleased that all the measures worked. The captain and crew did a fantastic job."

The ship has now cancelled its stop at Mombasa and will end the cruise in the Seychelles on Monday.

Mr Dingle said authorities in the US and the Department of Transport in the UK have been informed of the attack.

He said the company had no reason to believe it was a terrorist attack and all the evidence pointed to pirates.

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