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Sunday, April 12, 2009

U.S. tugboat with 16 crew hijacked

NAIROBI: The head of a Kenyan seafarers’ programme said on Saturday Somali pirates had hijacked an American-owned tugboat with 16 crew in the Gulf of Aden.

The hijacking took place as the American captain of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama was still being held hostage on a lifeboat being watched by two U.S. warships.

The East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program said maritime industry sources had informed his organisation that the Italian-flagged U.S. tugboat was towing two barges when it was attacked. He said it was unclear if the attack took place off the coast of Somalia or further north near Yemen.

More U.S. warships were trying to stop Somali pirates from sending reinforcements to the lifeboat where the American captain was being held for a fourth day hundreds of miles from land, a diplomat said Saturday.

The Nairobi-based diplomat, who receives regular briefings on the situation, said the four pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips in a lifeboat under the close watch of U.S. warships had tried to summon other pirates from the Somali mainland.

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