9 April 2009

Somalia: U.S. Navy Intervenes Against Pirates

Nairobi — A United States Navy missile destroyer has arrived to help end an ongoing standoff between four Somali pirates and their American hostage off the east coast of Somalia.

The hostage, the captain of the container ship, the Maersk Alabama, is being held captive in a lifeboat after a hijacking attempt early Wednesday.

After the Alabama's 20 American crew members managed to wrest control of the ship back from the pirates later Wednesday, they initially detained one of the pirates. The Nato Shipping Centre reports that the crew "returned their hostage [sic] to the pirates, hoping the pirates would give back the captain of the ship... but this was not the case."

News agencies report the name of the captain being held hostage as Richard Phillips, who lives in Vermont in the United States.

The Nato agency reported at 6am UTC (2am Eastern U.S. time) Thursday that the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, had arrived at the scene of the hijacking.

According to the Lloyd's Register-Fairplay shipping news web site, the pirates are "conducting ransom negotiations with a satellite telephone."

Maersk Line Limited, the U.S.-based owner and operator of the ship, said in a statement yesterday that they are "working closely with the U.S. military and other government agencies" to resolve the standoff.

The Alabama is carrying food aid and supplies to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya. The Alabama's hijacking by pirates was the sixth this week. Since Wednesday, the Nato Shipping Centre reports, two more ships, including a Yemeni fishing boat and a Marhsall-Islands flagged bulk carrier, have been attacked in the region.

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