An Italian cruise ship carrying armed Israeli security guards successfully averted a hijacking attempt by Somali pirates late Saturday, according to multiple reports. The MSC Melody, which was carrying more than 1,500 people, opened fire on the speed boat when the six men armed with Kalashnikov rifles tried to put a ladder on the bow.
With returns still coming in two days after the April 22 parliamentary elections in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) has won an apparent overwhelming victory. With 14.5 million ballots having been counted, the ANC party led by Jacob Zuma was leading with about 66 percent of the vote. Winning a two-thirds majority of seats in the parliament would allow the ANC to enact major legislation unchallenged, or to change the country's constitution.
The resistance put up by the American crew of the Maersk Alabama and the dramatic Easter Sunday rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont, who had been held by Somali pirates since April 8, may cause pirates to think twice about targeting Americans. But some Somali pirates are threatening retaliation for the U.S. military action that resulted in three pirates being killed and one taken captive.
Sooner or later it was bound to happen. Over the past several years, American ships and crews had evaded the rising tide of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. But on April 8, pirates off the coast of Somalia seized a U.S.-flagged container ship, the Maersk Alabama, with a crew of 20 Americans. However, the American seamen were unwilling to join the crews of 18 other ships who are being held for ransom by the Somali pirates. In what is believed to be an unprecedented action in the Somali pirates’ sphere of operations, the unarmed crew fought back and overpowered their attackers.
The piracy that has become rampant off the coast of Somalia is reported in the news almost daily, but the recent hijacking of the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star and its $100 million cargo brought unprecedented attention to the problem. A November 25 article in the British Telegraph newspaper featured an interview with the ship's chief engineer, a Briton, who told a reporter that the ship's crew had been well treated. The article also reported that the Sirius Star "is currently being held in waters off the lawless pirate-infested port of Haradheere, in central Somalia." The article also noted that the pirates, 10 days after the hijacking, had dropped their ransom demand from $25 million to $15 million, confirming that their motives were primarily economic and that — with negotiations bogged down — they would discount their goods to move them.