Where: Mogadishu, Somalia
April 13, 2009 : Somalian pirates captured the MV Maersk Alabama, an American cargo ship which was carrying 5,000 tonnes of United Nations emergency relief supplies to Kenya. The crew managed to regain control of the ship, but pirates captured the Captain and escaped with him as hostage on a lifeboat. Four days later (on Easter Sunday), April 12, 2009, Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued, and his pirate captors were shot by the US Navy. Three pirates were killed and a fourth was taken into custody.
This was the latest of a week-long series of attacks off the coast of Somalia. The US ship, a small French sailing yacht, a British-owned Italian-operated cargo ship, a German container carrier, a Taiwanese fishing vessel and a Yemeni tugboat were all hijacked after April 4, 2009. The French yacht was recovered after a gun battle between French commandos and pirates. Two pirates and one hostage died in the fighting.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a menace to international shipping since the civil war began in that country in the early 1990s. The area in which the pirates operate covers the busy international shipping lanes from the Gulf of Aden into the Indian Ocean. International trade has suffered. Shipping costs and insurance costs have gone up. The World Food Programme has suffered particularly, as most of its food aid shipments are sent by sea.
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