Sun, Apr 12, 2009 - Page 1 News List

US standoff with pirates continues, French storm yacht

REUTERS , MOGADISHU

Pirates on a German ship with 24 foreign hostages said yesterday they had returned to the Somali coast after failing to locate the scene of a standoff involving an American captive on a drifting lifeboat.

The pirates had hoped to use the hijacked 20,000-tonne container vessel, Hansa Stavanger, as a “shield” to reach fellow pirates holding American ship captain Richard Phillips far out in the Indian Ocean. US naval ships are close to the lifeboat.

“We have come back to Haradheere coast. We could not locate the lifeboat,” said one pirate on the German ship who identified himself as Suleiman.

The German ship was seized off south Somalia between Kenya and the Seychelles and has a crew of 24.

Somali elders and relatives of pirates holding Phillips are planning a mediation mission, a regional maritime group said.

“They are just looking to arrange safe passage for the pirates, no ransom,” the group’s coordinator Andrew Mwangura said.

Separately, French special forces stormed a yacht held by pirates elsewhere in the lawless stretch of the Indian Ocean in an assault that killed one hostage, but freed four.

Two pirates were killed and three captured.

Yesterday, NATO staff said pirates had attacked a Panama-flagged bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen.

An unexploded grenade had landed in the commanding officer’s cabin and bullets were fired at the ship before it repelled the attack with water hoses, said the officials, aboard a Portuguese warship in the area.

More US warships have been sent toward the lifeboat drifting in international waters off Somalia, where pirates have been holding Phillips since trying to hijack his ship, the 17,000-tonne, Danish-owned Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday.

The American captain’s relatives have said he volunteered to get in the lifeboat with the pirates in exchange for the safety of his crew, who regained control of the Maersk Alabama.

The ship was scheduled to dock at Kenya’s Mombasa port at around 5pm yesterday.

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