Capt. Richard Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was seized Wednesday when he thwarted the takeover of the 17,000-ton U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama, which was carrying food aid for hungry people in Somalia, Rwanda and Uganda. He told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men, crew members told stateside relatives.
The crew later overpowered some of the pirates but the Somalis fled with the captain to an enclosed lifeboat, the relatives said.
Quinn told reporters the experience was "terrifying and exciting at the same time."
Not everybody on the ship was ecstatic, however. One man looked out at the assembled journalists who were shouting questions at him, and after a pause said: "You're a bunch of ... leeches." Later, facing the crowd again from the ship, he added: "Don't disrespect these men like that. They've got a man out on a lifeboat dying so we can live."
Even as the Maersk Alabama pulled into port, the crew of an Italian-flagged tugboat was being held by pirates who seized it in a new attack.
The Italian tugboat was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's north coast Saturday as it was pulling barges, said Shona Lowe, a spokeswoman at NATO's Northwood maritime command center outside London.
The Foreign Ministry in Rome confirmed 10 of the 16 crew members are Italian. The others are five Romanians and a Croatian, according to Micoperi, the Italian company that owns the ship.
"We received an e-mail from the ship saying 'We are being attacked by pirates,' and after that, nothing," Silvio Bartolotti, the owner of the company, told The Associated Press.
The two hijackings did not take place near each other and a piracy expert said they did not appear related.
"This is just the Somali pirate machine in full flow," said Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, founder of Dryad Maritime Intelligence Ltd.. "That's what pirates do, it's business for them."
Piracy along the anarchic and impoverished Somali coast, the longest in Africa, has risen in recent years. Somali pirates have been seizing ships with many hostages and anchoring it near shore, where they have quickly escaped to land and begun negotiations for multimillion-dollar ransoms.
Phillips jumped out of the lifeboat and tried to swim for his freedom on Friday but was recaptured when a pirate fired an automatic weapon at or near him, according to U.S. Defense Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the sensitive, unfolding operations.
Because Phillips thwarted them, his captors are in an unusually vulnerable situation, drifting in a lifeboat more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from shore with only one hostage and in sight of two U.S. warships.
A Nairobi-based diplomat, who receives regular briefings on the situation, said the four pirates holding Phillips had tried to summon other pirates from the Somali mainland. The diplomat, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said that pirates had been trying to reach the lifeboat.
He said that at least two American ships and U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft had been attempting to deter pirate ships and skiffs from contact with the lifeboat but he did not know if the pirates and Navy ships had come into contact.
A Somali who described himself as having close ties to pirate networks told The Associated Press that pirates had set out in four commandeered ships with hostages from a variety of nations including the Philippines, Russia and Germany.
A second Somali man who said he had spoken by satellite phone to a pirate piloting a seized German freighter told the AP by phone Saturday that the pirate captain had reported being blocked by U.S. forces and was returning Saturday to the pirate stronghold of Harardhere.