Thursday, April 16, 2009

MOMBASA, Kenya | Somali pirates who staged an abortive attack on a second U.S. ship loaded with food aid said Wednesday that they were singling out American vessels and would kill the crews. Meanwhile, French forces detained 11 hijackers in a high-seas raid.

Pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at the cargo ship Liberty Sun, but its American crew members successfully blockaded themselves inside the engine room. The ship was damaged in Tuesday’s attack but was heading to Kenya under U.S. Navy protection.

A pirate whose gang attacked the ship said Wednesday that his group was targeting American ships and sailors.

“We will seek out the Americans, and if we capture them we will slaughter them,” said a 25-year-old pirate based in the Somali port of Harardhere who gave only his first name, Ismail.

The incident comes after U.S. Navy sharpshooters killed three pirates Sunday to win the release of a hijacked American sea captain, Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama.

The attack on the Liberty Sun foiled the reunion between Capt. Phillips and the 19-man crew he saved. Capt. Phillips had planned to meet his crew members in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and fly home with them Wednesday, but was stuck on the USS Bainbridge when it was diverted to help the Liberty Sun.

The crew left without him, flying to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in a chartered plane.

“We are very happy to be going home,” crewman William Rios of New York City said before departing Wednesday. “[But] we are disappointed to not be reuniting with the captain in Mombasa. He is a very brave man.”

Third mate Colin Wright, from Galveston, Texas, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that fighting off pirates gave him a new appreciation for life.

“I’ll just love to hug my mother,” Mr. Wright said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States would pursue new efforts to track down and freeze the assets of pirates, who have reaped multimillion-dollar ransoms for ships they have captured.

“We may be dealing with a 17th-century crime, but we need to bring 21st-century solutions to bear,” she said at a news conference in Washington.

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration also would call for immediate meetings of an international counterpiracy task force to expand naval coordination against pirates operating in the key shipping lanes off Somalia.

French forces launched an early morning attack on a pirate ship after spotting it Tuesday with a surveillance helicopter and observing the pirates overnight. The raid thwarted the bandits’ planned attack on the Liberian cargo ship Safmarine Asia, the French Defense Ministry said.

The 11 detained pirates were being held on the Nivose, a French frigate serving in the international fleet trying to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden.

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