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Foiled Pirate Attack Encourages Defense Officials

Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 11.18.2009Defense Department officials are pleased with the Maersk Alabama's successful defense against suspected pirates today off the coast of Somalia, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Four suspected pirates in a skiff used small-arms weapons in an attempt to board the U.S.-flagged ship, but were unsuccessful. The ship's security team responded with evasive maneuvers, acoustic devices and small-arms fire, which deterred the attack without assistance from U.S. military in the region.

"We are pleased that we had a ship that was able to take appropriate actions to prevent itself from being hijacked," Whitman told Pentagon reporters.

Whitman noted that the international shipping industry has been very engaged in sharing best practices against pirates. Pentagon officials have encouraged such talks, which involve evasion techniques, transit routes and protection teams, he said.

"It's clear, at least in this particular case, some of those practices were employed," he said, adding that there was no specific U.S. military involvement in the repelled attack.

But piracy in the region remains a concern, Whitman said, and the department is looking for ways to help in reducing the threat. But in addition to U.S. military involvement, he said, efforts from the international community and continued measures within the shipping industry are necessary.

"There is no single solution to piracy," Whitman said. "It's something that has to be dealt with internationally and across the broad front with a broad array of tactics and techniques.

"We're seeing that employed more often," he continued. "This, I think, is an example not only of evasive techniques, but defense posture ... making it more challenging for pirates."

No injuries or damage were reported aboard the Maersk Alabama, which is proceeding to its destination of Mombasa, Kenya.

Suspected Somali pirates briefly seized the Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia on April 8 and held the ship's skipper, Capt. Richard Phillips, hostage for five days on a skiff. U.S. naval forces rescued Phillips on April 12, killing three suspected pirates and taking one into custody.

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