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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 12:01 GMT
Liner docks after pirate attack

A cruise liner attacked by pirates off Somalia has docked in the Seychelles after a rocket-propelled grenade was removed from a passenger cabin.

US explosives experts boarded the Seabourn Spirit and removed the grenade, which was embedded in a wall.

Most of the 151 passengers - mainly from the US, Europe and Australia - are to fly home from the Seychelles after a stop in Mombasa, Kenya, was cancelled.

The attack has led to calls for better protection for ships in Somali waters.

Tourists who were forced to shelter inside the cruise liner as the vessel came under sustained attack on Saturday have described the bombardment.

I could tell the guy firing the bazooka was smiling
Charles Supple
Passenger

"A man with the bazooka aimed it right at me and I saw a big flash," Charles Supple, a 78-year-old retired doctor from California, told the Associated Press news agency.

"Needless to say, I dropped the camera and dived. The grenade struck two decks above and about four rooms further forward.

"I could tell the guy firing the bazooka was smiling."

Evasive action

Officials had feared that the grenade lodged in passenger accommodation might still pose a threat.

But a US Coastguard spokesman said it had already exploded and was safely disposed of.

Passengers being bussed to hotels
Passengers seemed pleased to make it off the ship
Saturday's brazen attack, 100 miles (160km) off the Somali coast, has been widely blamed on pirates, who regularly attack cargo ships and trading vessels off the Horn of Africa.

But Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer refused to rule out the possibility that attackers deliberately targeted the US-owned ship in an act of terrorism.

The ship's crew managed to prevent the hijackers getting on board by increasing speed and changing course. Just one crew member was lightly injured.

The bombardment reportedly lasted for more than an hour, and several areas of the ship, including the observation deck and some staterooms, were damaged by machine-gun fire.

Industry concern

There have been at least 23 other attacks since March against vessels off the southern and eastern coasts of Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has said.

Pirates seize ships and crews to hold them for ransom.

The IMB added that pirates appeared to have the protection of local warlords in Somalia, which has lacked effective central government since 1991.

A UK maritime union, Numast, has called for Somali waters to be declared a war zone, offering greater safeguards for crews working in the region.

The attack on the Seabourn Spirit is thought to be the first on a luxury liner in the area.


SEE ALSO:
Pirates hijack ship off Somalia
21 Oct 05 |  Africa
Somalia's dangerous waters
26 Sep 05 |  Africa
Somalia - where the gun rules
09 Feb 05 |  Africa


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