New bid to free captain of pirated US ship

The Maersk Alabama's crew, now in Kenya, tells story as negotiations continue over captain held hostage.

By , Correspondent

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    SAFELY ASHORE: The Maresk Alabama and its crew arrived at the port of Mombasa, Kenya, Sunday after a harrowing encounter with Somali pirates. The ship's American captain is still being held by the pirates.
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After arriving safely in Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday night, the sailors aboard the first American ship to be attacked by pirates in 200 years have begun to tell their story. Negotiations are still under way to secure the release of the US captain being held hostage.

The tale of the men's fight against the pirates – which comes after French commandos raided a hijacked yacht – may mark a dramatic turning point as sailors and government forces begin taking a firm stand against pirates. There is, however, no indication that attacks will decrease in the immediate future.

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Although the Maersk Alabama's crew, who are still being questioned by the FBI, CIA, and other US government agencies, has remained largely quiet about their ordeal, they spoke briefly to the press about their battle with the pirates. On Wednesday, the Somali raiders came at the ship from the stern, reports the Times of London, firing shots into the air, and boarding with hooks. The ship's captain, Richard Phillips, surrendered himself to the pirates in an attempt to save his crew.

Captain Phillips remains in pirate custody, despite an escape attempt on Friday. As a US warship monitors the situation, American negotiators have been working with leaders from the pirates' village to broker a deal for the captain's release, but the Chicago Tribune reports that a compromise has yet to be reached. Village elders are demanding that the four pirates holding the captain be return to Somalia for prosecution, while the US has demanded their arrest.

The BBC reported that Somali elders were setting sail from the Somali town of Eyl in a fresh bid to resolve the situation. The pirates have warned the US not to try to take the captain by force.

While the crew members were relieved to have arrived safely in Mombasa, Kenya, the ship's original destination, many were still upset by their captain's continued detention. The Independent reports that one unnamed crew member confronted reporters on Saturday night, saying, "He's out there dying so we can live." The distraught mariner, angry with the media attention, then swore at reporters before smashing a cup and retreating below deck.

Meanwhile, on Friday, French commandos managed to take back a 42-ft. yacht hijacked by pirates a week ago. One of the French captives was killed during the raid and there remains speculation about whether he was killed by French or Somali fire. It is the third time this year that French forces have freed citizens from pirates, reports the Guardian.

Despite crews and naval forces taking a more aggressive posture, it seems unlikely that attacks will decrease. While there was a slight reduction in piracy in the first few months of this year, The National reports that it may have had more to do with the weather than the effectiveness of naval operations.

The New York Times reports that although the US may be preparing to take action against the Somali pirates as it did against the Barbary pirates 200 years ago, it now faces a far different enemy. The Times considers whether the US will launch an all-out war against the pirates as it did two centuries ago.

Putting an end to the pirate problem may require that the US and other nations to look beyond Somalia. The Associated Press reports that, while there are "no direct ties" between the pirates and terror groups, Somali expatriates fund piracy operations, exchanging equipment and information for a share of the ransoms.

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