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Ship’s U.S. Crew Endures Pirate Encounter Off Somali Coast, Captain Held Hostage

Off the Somali coast, pirates hijacked a cargo ship and later held the captain hostage. Brian Jenkins, a specialist in hostage negotiations and adviser to the International Maritime Bureau, examines the situation.

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    Our lead story: Pirates off the coast of Somalia hit American targets today. The American crew of a container ship carrying food aid bound for Kenya regained control, but the captain was held hostage on a nearby lifeboat.

    And the Associated Press, citing U.S. officials, reported U.S. warships in the area were en route to the scene.

    Gwen Ifill has our report.


    The 500-foot merchant ship Maersk Alabama, with a crew of 20 Americans, was taken in the Indian Ocean 350 miles off the Somali coast.

    The vessel, based in Norfolk, Virginia, was on its way to the Kenyan port of Mombassa with a relief shipment from USAID, the World Food Programme, and other agencies.

    Crew members were able to retake control of their ship after about 12 hours under pirate control, according to multiple reports. But the Maersk Alabama's captain, Richard Phillips, was not immediately released, according to a member of the crew who spoke to the Associated Press and to CNN.

    John Reinhart, the CEO of Maersk Line, Limited — which owns the vessel — said he had received a call saying the crew was safe, but he resisted saying more.

  • JOHN REINHART, CEO, Maersk Line Limited:

    Speculation is a dangerous thing when you're in a fluid environment.


    The Maersk Alabama was the sixth ship commandeered just this week by pirates in the lawless waters off the East African coast. A Kenya-based official of the World Food Programme, which was expecting the Alabama's arrival, said the pirates are less interested in cargo than in the ransom the hostages might bring.

  • PETER SMERDON, World Food Programme, Kenya:

    There is sometimes long period of negotiation between the owners and the pirates. And usually in these cases, the crew is not harmed and, after the negotiation, a ransom is paid and the ship and the crew and the cargo are released.

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