Sources: U.S. tugboat hijacked by pirates

April 11, 2009 at 9:45 PM
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EYL, Somalia, April 11 (UPI) -- Somali pirates Saturday fired at approaching U.S. sailors intent on rescuing a container ship captain being held by the modern-day buccaneers, CNN reported.

The U.S. news network reported a source it described as a U.S. official familiar with the situation said the pirates shot at the U.S. Navy personnel as they tried to reach the lifeboat where the captain, Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vt., was being held.

The sailors did not return fire and returned to the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge, the official said.

The confrontation in the Indian Ocean came the same day a U.S.-owned tugboat towing two barges was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. Unidentified maritime industry sources said all of the 16 crew members on board the hijacked tugboat were unharmed, the BBC reported.

In another episode, a ship carrying Somali pirates seeking to send reinforcements to the hijackers holding Phillips was turned back, sources say. The pirates steered the hijacked German ship Hansa Stavanger back to the Somali port of Eyl Saturday after using it to try to aid their compatriots holding Phillips, a Somali journalist told CNN.

Phillips' ship, the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama arrived Saturday in Mombasa, along with an 18-person armed security detail on board.

"For security reasons, the vessel will berth in a restricted area of the port and will not be accessible to the media," Maersk Ltd. said. "FBI agents will debrief members of the crew on board the vessel before they disembark. The crew will not be available to the media in Mombasa."

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