Somali pirates fail to hijack U.S. ship

April 15th, 2009 - 12:42 pm ICT by admin  

LONDON (BNO NEWS) — Somali pirates attacked the U.S. flagged cargo ship The Liberty Sun on Tuesday but failed to hijack it, a NATO official told BNO News.

The bulk carrier, which was carrying food aid, was bound for Mombasa in Kenya. “The crew fought back,” Chris Davies, who is a NATO spokesman, told BNO News from London. A coalition warship, which is reported to be the USS Bainbridge, is now en-route to intercept the ship and escort it into port.

Davies said, based on the location of the incident, that the pirates were most likely using skiffs from a nearby mother ship to attack the vessel. There were no casualties in the attack, which was reported at around 8.30 p.m. EDT.

Davies did not expect that the Somali pirates had changed their tactics, despite threats against American and French citizens. “It doesn’t make any sense to do anything different from what they’re doing,” he said. “They are very successful in what they do. They grab ships and extort money.”

In the last few days there has been a significant surge in the number of hijackings and attacks, with one hijacking of a French ship resulting in the first hostage to be killed during a rescue operation. Good weather conditions, presumed to be behind the sudden increase in attacks, are expected to deteriorate. “What you might expect is, with the weather possibly about to change soon, perhaps they are working over high at the present to accumulate a few boats for ransom,” Davies said.

Davies said that NATO is in the region to prevent pirates from attacking ships. He also said that ships have various measures they can take to try to escape from the attacking pirates, such as steering away at maximum speed. He urged ships to keep a “double watch” and have a fire hose ready to deter against attackers. “It’s very difficult for a pirate to board when he’s hit by a blast of water, always a non-lethal method. It makes life slight trickier for the pirates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to work,” he added. “It clearly worked in the case of the Alabama, that was a good tactic.” He said moving away in a straight line at full speed can out run the pirates although steering around in the water makes it more difficult for pirates to grab on to a ship and board it, but steering around makes the ship much slower. “It’s probably a last resort.” It was not yet clear how The Liberty Sun evaded the pirates.

The sole reason for the pirates to attack ships is money. “It’s organized crime, and it’s not condoned by most of the world,” Davies said. “Of course, they live in the sort of society where they can get away with it, unfortunately.” He estimated that about 17 to 19 ships are currently still hijacked, but added that not all incidents are reported, especially those involving small fishing boats.

Hostages are usually treated well aboard hijacked ships. “The worst we’ve seen, from the pirates, is beatings up. And even that is very infrequently. Generally, the hostages are well looked after because hostages equal money,” the NATO spokesman said. “If they are going to start mistreating the hostages, then that’s going against what they want to achieve. We’re finding that they are not after revenge, they are after money.”

He also stressed reporters to be careful in their coverage, especially since the hijackings of a U.S. and French ship ended in multiple pirates being killed. “I really would hate to say anything that would incite them to say ‘well, NATO has said this, we’ll prove them wrong.’ ” The pirates are operating in an area of more than a million square miles, which makes it difficult to patrol and protect ships in the region.

“We’re making it more trickier for them but so far we aren’t stopping them,” the spokesman said. “This is a good news story.”

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