US cargo ship attacked by Somali pirates

Posted by Debra Worley - email

WASHINGTON, DC (WECT) - A crew member aboard the U.S.-flagged cargo vessel hijacked by pirates tells The Associated Press that his ship mates are trying to rescue a crew member still being held hostage.

A man identifying himself as a third mate on the ship says the Somali pirates have the crew member in a lifeboat. Earlier, a person aboard the ship told the AP the captain was being held.

U.S. officials say an American warship and half a dozen other vessels are headed to the location off the Somali coast where pirates captured a cargo ship with a U.S. crew. The White House says President Barack Obama is following the situation closely.

The US Navy confirmed a Maesrk cargo ship was hijacked shortly after midnight Wednesday, about 280 miles southeast of Northern Somalia.

The shipping company says 20 Americans were on board, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called their safety the "top priority."

A company spokesman said the 17,000 ton Maesrk Alabama was carrying emergency relief supplies to Kenya when it was hijacked.

According to a spokeswoman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, it was the first pirate attack involving US Nationals and a US-flagged vessel in recent memory.

Maesrk started a line to the Port of Wilmington in March.  The port says the hijacked ship has never called on Wilmington.

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