Details are emerging about a failed hijacking of an American cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, Tuesday. The attack came just days after the U.S. Navy rescued an American hostage from pirates off the eastern coast of Somalia.
Crewman's mom gets email alert
Shortly before noon, Tuesday, he wrote that pirates were firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel. Crewmembers quickly barricaded themselves in the engine room. The sailor told his mother that no one had been hurt, but a rocket had penetrated the ship's bulkhead causing minor damage.
It is not clear how the 20 American crew members kept the pirates from seizing the ship. By the time a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, arrived at the scene of the attack about six hours later, the hijackers had left.
The Bainbridge was involved in Sunday's rescue of an American ship captain, who had been taken hostage by pirates during another failed hijacking attempt of a U.S. ship, last week.
Rescued captain still aboard warship
The Navy warship was transporting Phillips to Kenya when it was called to respond to the attack on Liberty Sun.
Pirates threatened to target US ships
UN endorses military action against pirates
The monitors say sunny weather and calm seas along Somalia's coast are largely responsible for the recent spike in pirate activity. Four vessels and about 60 crew members have been seized since Sunday.
United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdullah issued a statement Wednesday, endorsing the military action taken by the United States and France, who launched a similar operation, last week, to rescue hostages on a yacht. Ould-Abdullah says the operations sent a strong message to pirates. But he says the international community must do more to quickly identify and hold accountable those who are supporting and financing pirate activities.
Who is backing pirates?
He adds the ransom money from piracy, which is estimated to have exceeded $30 million last year, has now permeated so much of Somali society, it is now virtually impossible to know who is involved in piracy and who is not.
"One of the things that pirates have done really well is to make sure that they are paying many people in different parts of the political network as possible," Middleton said. "Pro-government, anti-government, types of government, armed groups are all getting a kickback."
Overwhelming economic incentive
"To be honest, my feeling is that the economic incentive for the pirates is so overwhelming, it is not going to necessarily alter the dynamics of this," Middleton said.
Pirates have already attacked nearly 80 ships in the region since January. About 19 vessels are being held, with an estimated 300 crew members.