US ship crew call for anti-piracy action

April 13th, 2009 - 10:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Nairobi, April 13 (DPA) Crew members of the Maersk Alabama, whose captain Richard Phillips was freed from the clutches of Somali pirates in a dramatic US Navy operation, paid tribute to their captain Monday and called on President Barack Obama to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia.
US Navy snipers Sunday shot dead three Somali pirates who had been holding Phillips in a lifeboat since Wednesday, following a failed attempt to seize the Alabama.

A fourth pirate - who was on a US Navy ship, the USS Bainbridge, to negotiate Phillip’s release at the time of the shooting - is in custody.

Captain Phillips has played down his part in the drama, instead praising the Navy Seals that freed him.

However, at a press conference in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, where the Alabama docked Saturday, the crew hailed Phillips as a hero.

“Everyone you see here today has the captain to thank for their lives and their freedom,” Chief Mate Shane Murphy said.

Phillips is on board the USS Boxer, one of three US vessels that rushed to the scene of the hostage drama, recovering from the five-day ordeal and being debriefed.

The drama began to unfold Wednesday, when four armed pirates boarded the Alabama using grappling hooks.

Crew members forced the pirates to retreat to the Alabama’s lifeboat with Phillips, who the crew said gave himself up as a hostage to safeguard the lives of his 19 American crew.

The pirates were quickly hemmed in by warships, part of a coalition force based in the Gulf of Aden, as negotiations to free Phillips got underway.

Phillips failed in an attempt to swim to the Bainbridge Thursday and was tied up to prevent further escape plans.

He was only freed when the on-scene commander judged that Phillips’ life was in imminent danger and ordered snipers to open fire from the Bainbridge.

The order to open fire if Phillips was under threat came directly from President Obama.

Murphy asked Obama to tackle Somali pirates, who have been wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding region for years.

“We’d like to implore President Obama to use all of his resources to increase the commitment to end the Somali pirate scourge,” Murphy said.

However, there are fears that the high-profile operation may raise the stakes, leading to pirates to become more violent.

Some pirate groups have already vowed to avenge their colleagues and to kill any American hostages taken in the future.

Two other pirates and one hostage were killed Friday when French naval forces stormed a yacht, freeing four hostages.

Piracy has spiked in recent weeks after a brief lull due to bad weather.

In 2008, pirates seized over 40 vessels in and around the Gulf of Aden and collected tens of millions of dollars in ransom, prompting the international community to send warships to the region.

Around 15 warships from the European Union, a US-led coalition task force and individual countries such as Russia, India and China patrol an area of about 2.85 million sq km.

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