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American Crew Overpowers Somali Pirates

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 9, 2009


Captain Held Hostage Despite Crew Overpowering Pirates to Regain Control of Vessel



The captain of a ship hijacked by armed Somali pirates is being held hostage today despite the fact that the crew of American sailors overpowered the pirates to regain control of their vessel.

 A crew member told CNN this afternoon that the captain is on the ship’s lifeboat with negotiations ongoing. He said the crew tried to exchange the captain for a captive pirate, but apparently the pirates reneged on the deal.

With the captain held hostage, 34-year-old Shane Murphy, the ship’s chief officer, is in charge, his wife Serena Murphy told ABC News today.

“He’s very tough, he’s very take-charge,” she said. “I have 100 percent confidence in him. He’s quite a man.”

Serena Murphy received a call from her husband this afternoon, at which point he said, “I’m alive. I’m safe. I love you,” Serena recalled.

“He said, ‘I’m negotiating for the safe return of the captain,” Serena told ABC News. “It’s going to be a little hectic for the next two to three hours.”

Serena was holding her 8-month-old son, Jason, in her arm in the front yard of the couple’s Seekonk, Mass., home when the call came, she said. They also have a 3-year-old son, Dylan.

The crew had turned the tables on the pirates who hijacked their ship after a high seas chase. Once overpowered by the crew, the pirates tried to board their skiff, but the motor wasn’t working, a Defense Department official told ABC News. The pirates are now in one of the ship’s lifeboats with the ship’s captain in their custody.

The Defense official added that there are no pirates on board the ship.

At the State Department this afternoon, acting spokesman Robert Wood said the situation was “fluid at the moment,” adding, “I’m seeing contradictory reports.” Wood also said he could not confirm reports of a U.S. diplomat on board the ship.

“I can just confirm that I think there were 20 American citizens on board,” Wood said.

The pirates went after the Maersk Alabama, a 17,000 ton container ship carrying relief aid to Mombasa, Kenya.

The pirates attacked the Alabama, formerly named the Maersk Alva, in the Indian Ocean about 300 miles from the Somali coast.

The ship was under the command of Capt. Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vt. Both Phillips and Murphy are graduates of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Murphy’s father, Capt. Joseph Murphy is a professor at the academy.

Today, Joseph Murphy told ABC News that his son had called to say the crew had regained control of the ship. Murphy said his son and other crewmembers used “brute force” to overpower the pirates who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

The crew of the Alabama turned the pirate raid into a long running battle.

A Defense Department official said the pirates first tried to board the Alabama Tuesday morning. The crew contacted the British Maritime Trade Organization which advised the crew to take evasive action and turn their powerful firehoses on the pirates’ skiff.

The tactic succeeded in repelling the pirates and the Alabama broke away, the Defense official said.

Almost 24 hours later, the pirates tried to board a second time. The crew again called the British Maritime Organization during a 15-minute struggle with the pirates. The pirates came aboard firing their AK-47s, Shane Murphy told his father.

The call to the Maritime Trade Organization ended when someone with a non-American accent yelled, “Put the phone down,” and the line went dead, the official told ABC News.

Four pirates were reported to be aboard the Alabama and they almost immediately demanded a ransom, although it was now known how much they wanted, the Defense official said.

The ship was reported to be “dead in the water” and operating on auxiliary power. It had food and fuel for 30 to 45 days, indicating the negotiations could be a long haul, the official said. It wasn’t such a long haul after all. Hours later reports came back that the crew was back in control of the Alabama.

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