First attack on ship flying under US flag

Somali pirates have attacked and hijacked a Maersk cargo ship carrying 21 Americans, a spokesman for the US Navy Fifth Fleet has said. The ship was flying under a US flag when it was captured 500 kilometres off the coast – possibly the first targeting of a US vessel in four years of attacks.

The Danish shipping company said that the Maersk Alabama was part of the East Africa service network and was on course for the Kenyan port of Mombasa when the attack took place. This is the second time a Maersk ship has been hijacked off the African coast.

The latest hijacking comes after a British-owned cargo ship and a fishing trawler were taken on Monday, and a French yacht carrying two couples and a three-year-old child was seized over the weekend. This ‘flurry’ of hijackings has prompted the US military and other authorities in the area to issue an alert to mariners warning of increased dangers in the region.

The attacks, which occurred out of the Gulf of Aden sea lanes patrolled by US and coalition ships, indicate that the pirates are changing tactics and looking for ships in the open water – tens of thousands of square miles – that lack military patrol vessels, US military officials said.

See Dick Durham’s blog