A U.S.-flagged container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was hijacked earlier this morning while sailing about 500 kilometres off the coast of Somalia. In a statement from the vessel's owners, Maersk Line Limited, the vessel was said to have been en route to Mombasa from Djibouti at the time of the attack. The crew consists of 20 Americans and the ship's home port is Norfolk, VA.. The seizure of Maersk Alabama is the sixth such incident in less than a week. According to Maersk, the eleven-year-old vessel was carrying 400 containers of food aid, some of which was destined for the UN's World Food Programme.
The BBC's East Africa correspondent, Peter Greste, wonders whether the American hostages will receive the same treatment that Somali pirates have shown previous captives. According to the BBC report, "Somalia is largely under the control of a group with links to al-Qaeda, our correspondent says, and they may choose to make a political point out the situation." And while I beg to differ about the assessment that Somalia is, indeed, largely controlled by Islamists, I do agree that should al-Shabaab become involved in this situation, piracy-for-ransom may not be the outcome of this incident.