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Long Island-based ship attacked by pirates, officials say

Somali pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at a Long Island-owned vessel traveling through perilous waters off the Horn of Africa, officials said Tuesday.

The American ship carrying humanitarian aid, Liberty Sun, was damaged but the ship and crew called for help and were escorted by the U.S. Navy, said officials at the Lake Success-based company, Liberty Maritime Corp.

"We are grateful and pleased that no one was injured, and the crew and the ship are safe," said the company in a statement issued last night. "We have communicated with the families of the crew to inform them of these developments. We commend the entire crew for its professionalism and poise under fire."

-- Recent pirate attacks on U.S. ships

A U.S. Central Command spokesman said the vessel reported being attacked around 11:30 a.m. New York time.

Liberty Maritime Corp. officials said the ship was en route from Houston to Mombasa, Kenya, carrying American food for African nations suffering from famine.

Katy Urbik of Wheaton, Ill., said her son, Thomas, was aboard the Liberty Sun at the time of the attack, reported last night. She shared the e-mails he sent as the ship came under fire.

"We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets," said one e-mail sent Tuesday afternoon.

About 1 1/2 hours later, Thomas Urbik sent another e-mail to his mother, which said, "The navy has showed up in full force and we are now under military escort. . . . All is well."

The military spokesman, Navy Capt. Jack Hanzlik, said the vessel has a crew of about 20.

One company executive, Dale Moses, executive vice president and chief financial officer, declined to comment on the incident last night.

Kanzlik said the USS Bainbridge sailed to the scene and reported upon arriving at 5:30 p.m. that the pirates had left, and that there were no injuries.

"Liberty Maritime's first priority has been, and will continue to be, ensuring that the crews aboard our ships are safe," said the company's statement. "We want to especially thank the U.S. Navy for its prompt response to our request for assistance."

The Liberty Sun is continuing on its way to Mombasa.

The incident comes one week after another U.S. ship, the Maersk Alabama, was attacked in the same area. That ship's captain, Richard Phillips, was taken hostage by three pirates who were later shot dead by Navy SEAL snipers after negotiations for his release broke down.

-- Recent pirate attacks on U.S. ships

This story was supplemented with Associated Press reports.


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