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November 19, 2009

U.S. condemns ransom payments to pirates

Yesterday, the same day that Maersk Alabama repelled a pirate attack, the UN Security Council was again debating piracy and Somalia. And U.S. Ambassador Rosemary A. DiCarlo stresed U.S. opposition to paying ransom to pirates.

"This problem shows no sign of abating," she said. "As the Secretary-General's report notes, there were 160 instances of piracy in the eastern African area from January 1 to September 30 of this year--up from 136 during the same period last year. Many of these attacks are now shifting from the Gulf of Aden to the western Indian Ocean in response to successful naval operations in the Gulf."

"We are concerned," she said, "that ransom payments have contributed to the recent increases in piracy and encourage all states to adopt a firm 'no concessions policy' when dealing with hostage-takers, including pirates."

In yesterday's attack on the Maersk Alabama, four suspected pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of the ship and used small arms weapons in an attempt to board it.

The ship used evasive maneuvers and the embarked security team responded to the attack by using Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) and small arms fire, causing the suspected pirates to break off their attack.

"Due to Maersk Alabama following maritime industry's best-practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates," said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. "This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take pro-active action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they're in high-risk areas."


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