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Somali Pirates Hijack Ship With 20 Americans Onboard


Source : http://www.reuters.com

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somali pirates hijacked a U.S.-flagged, Danish-owned container ship on Wednesday with 20 American crew on board in a major escalation in attacks at sea off the Horn of Africa nation, officials said.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, told Reuters the 17,000 ton Maersk Alabama had been seized off Mogadishu far out in the Indian Ocean, but all its crew were believed to be unharmed.

Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk confirmed that the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama had been attacked by pirates about 500 km (300 miles) off Somalia and had probably been hijacked. The company said it had 20 American crew on board.

A spokesman for the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) in Nairobi told Reuters that among the vessel's cargo were 232 containers of WFP relief food destined for Somalia and Uganda.

In the latest wave of pirate attacks, gunmen from Somalia seized a British-owned ship on Monday after hijacking another three vessels over the weekend.

In the first three months of 2009 just eight ships were hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, which links the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and is used by ships traveling between Europe and Asia.

Last year, heavily armed Somali pirates hijacked dozens of vessels, took hundreds of sailors hostage -- often for weeks -- and extracted millions of dollars in ransoms.

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