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19.11.2009 Africa

Pirates Attack Us-Flag Ship Again

By Daily Guide
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A US-flagged container ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates seven months ago has been attacked again, the EU's naval force says.

Crew from MV Maersk Alabama returned fire after pirates fired automatic weapons at the ship, about 350 nautical miles east of Somalia.

There were no casualties reported, the force said. A patrol aircraft flew from neighbouring Djibouti to the area.

MV Maersk Alabama's captain was held hostage for five days in April.

Captain Richard Phillips was rescued when American naval snipers opened fire on the pirates holding him in a lifeboat, killing three outright.

 He had offered himself to the pirates in a bid to save his 19-member crew from harm.

Spanish crew freed
On Wednesday, an EU naval vessel searched for the pirates in the area, but the force did not say if they had been found.

Cdr John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU's naval force, said it was a "pure chance" that the MV Maersk Alabama had been targeted for a second time.

"It's not the first vessel to have been attacked twice, and it's a chance that every single ship takes as it passes through the area," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"At least this time they had a vessel protection detachment on board who were able to repel the attack."

The EU's force operates in the area to protect World Food Programme ships and others from piracy.

The attack came a day after pirates released a Spanish fishing boat and its crew after holding it for six weeks.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Tuesday that the pirates had abandoned the Alakrana tuna boat and that all 36 crew on board were "safe and sound".

The pirates earlier told reporters they were leaving the ship after being promised a ransom of $3.5m (£2.1m), although there was no government confirmation of this.

Source: BBC

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