Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Pirates say rocket attack on U.S. ship was revenge


MOGADISHU, Somalia (AFP) — Somali pirates attacked an American freighter with rockets to “destroy” the ship in revenge for an operation that freed a U.S. captain last weekend, a commander said Wednesday.

The freighter escaped the attack late Tuesday, but more vessels have fallen into the hands of marauding Somali bandits. Meanwhile, a French warship intercepte­d a pirate “mother ship” and arrested 11 gunmen, the French defence ministry said.

“This attack was the first against our prime target,” pirate commander Abdi Garad said of the attack on the Liberty Sun freighter late Tuesday. “We intended to destroy this American-flagged ship and the crew on board but, unfortunat­ely, they narrowly escaped us.

“The aim of this attack was totally different. We were not after a ransom. We also assigned a team with special equipment to chase and destroy any ship flying the American flag in retaliatio­n for the brutal killing of our friends.”

In another developmen­t Wednesday, Greece said Somali pirates on Wednesday released the Greek-owned, St. Vincent-flagged cargo ship that had been seized with its crew of 24 on March 19.

The Titan was sailing with a load of iron to South Korea from the Black Sea when it was seized. The crew was in good health, the merchant marine ministry in Athens said.

Pirates have taken four ships since losing two battles with U.S. and French forces last weekend. Their latest target was the Liberty Sun, which was heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa with internatio­nal food aid.

The USS Bainbridge, which mounted the operation to rescue the captain of U.S. cargo Maersk Alabama, came to the rescue of the Liberty Sun, officials said.

Crew members gave a dramatic account of the attack.

“We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets,” crewman Thomas Urbik told his mother in e-mail messages, according to CNN reports.

“We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. (A) rocket penetrated the bulkhead, but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out.”

Urbik said the U.S. navy escorted the ship to safety.

Garad said the attack was revenge for the weekend operation that freed Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips and killed three pirates.

According to sources close to the pirates, French ships were also prime targets following the weekend rescue of the Tanit yacht in which a hostage and two pirates were killed.

OnWednesda­y,aFrenchwar­shipwithan­EU anti-piracy force intercepte­d a pirate “mother ship” and arrested 11 gunmen whom they had been pursuing since the previous day.

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