The Maersk Alabama, the American-flagged ship captured briefly by pirates in April, came under fire again early Tuesday morning off Somalia's coast, but evaded the attackers.
Four men in a skiff sped within 300 yards of the container ship, firing automatic weapons in an attempt to board it, according to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. A security team aboard the Alabama fired back and managed to fend off the attack, the Navy said.
The onboard security detail was a private contractor, not a military detachment, according to a Fifth Fleet spokesman. A U.S. P-3 surveillance aircraft established radio communications with the ship's captain Wednesday, and the ship reported all aboard were safe, and the ship was proceeding to its next port of call.
In the attack, the Alabama's crew also took evasive maneuvers and used a new technique to repel pirates: deploying a so-called long-range acoustic device, which emits high-pitched sounds painful to the human ear.
Speaking by phone from Xaradheere, a pirate stronghold in Somalia, a Somali claiming to represent the pirates said the U.S.-flagged vessel narrowly escaped capture. His account matched details provided by U.S. and European military officials, lending credence to his claims of speaking for the pirates.
"We have attacked a ship with an American flag -- we tried to throw our ladders for climbing (but) it sped and (has) gone away," said Abdullahi Nor, who identified himself as a pirate spokesman.
"It narrowly escaped and opened fire on us," Mr. Nor said. "One of our colleagues was injured in the attack," he said. Mr. Nor said he had spoken to the would-be hijackers by satellite phone.
A vessel from the European Union Naval Force Somalia, a mission set up to fight piracy, was dispatched in an attempt to track down the skiff.
The U.S. Navy said that the Maersk Alabama is en route to Mombasa, Kenya, its original destination. It's expected to arrive early Sunday morning.