By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 15, 2009 – Somali pirates fired on a U.S.-flagged merchant vessel south of the Gulf of Aden today, military officials reported.
Pirates attacked the motor vessel Liberty Sun with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. The crew put out a distress call received by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The pirates were not successful in their attempt to board the vessel,” said Navy Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain. “The USS Bainbridge, [which] was in the general vicinity, responded to ensure Liberty Sun wasn’t in peril.” The pirates had fled by the time the Bainbridge arrived.
The USS Bainbridge was involved in the rescue of Merchant Marine Capt. Richard Phillips, the master of the Maersk-Alabama, hijacked by pirates April 8. Pirates had been holding Phillips captive aboard a lifeboat.
When the Bainbridge arrived, the crew ascertained the Liberty Sun was safe and transferred a security detail aboard the merchant vessel, a Defense Department public affairs spokesman said. About 20 U.S. citizens make up the Liberty Sun’s crew. The ship is carrying food aid from World Food, CARE, World Vision and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International.
The Liberty Sun will continue to its original destination of Mombasa, Kenya, the spokesman said. The Bainbridge mission to the Liberty Sun will delay Phillips’ return to the United States. He was to join his crew in Mombasa for their flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the spokesman explained, but now will travel separately.