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Undeterred, Pirates Hijack 4 More Ships

The Greek-managed bulk carrier Irene E.M., hijacked by Somalia pirates in the Gulf of Aden during the early hours of Tuesday April 14, 2009, is seen in this undated file photo. The Irene E.M was sailing from the Middle East to South Asia, with a Filipiono crew.(AP Photo/Roberto Smera, file)
AP Photo/Roberto Smera
Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed seven bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked four more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the key waterway that's become the focal point of the world's fight against piracy.

NATO spokeswoman Shona Lowe said a Lebanese-owned cargo ship, the MV Sea Horse, was attacked Tuesday off the Somali coast by pirates in three or four speedboats. She had no further details.

Earlier Tuesday, the M.V. Irene E.M. was hijacked, but it was not immediately clear where the ship is based or who owns it, two maritime security contractors said, speaking on condition of anonymity because it is a sensitive security issue.

The ship put out a distress signal shortly after midnight "to say they had a suspicious vessel approaching. That rapidly turned into an attack and then a hijacking," one of the contractors told The Associated Press. "They tried to call in support on the emergency channels, but they never got any response."

On Monday, Somali pirates also seized two Egyptian fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's northern coast, according to Egypt's Foreign Ministry. It cited a Somali diplomat in Cairo as saying there were 18 to 24 Egyptians onboard at the time.

The Web site of the World Shipping Register listed a bulk cargo ship by the same name as flying under a Saint Vincent and the Grenadines flag.

CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports the Irene is Greek-owned, but its destination, what it is carrying, and the nationality of the crew members remain unknown.

The Irene's listed weight on the Shipping Register site is 35,025 tons - approximately twice that of the Maersk Alabama, the U.S. container ship whose captain was rescued by Navy SEALS on Sunday.

SEAL snipers saved Captain Richard Phillips by killing three young pirates who held him captive in a drifting lifeboat for five days. A fourth pirate surrendered after seeking medical attention for a wound he received in trying to take over Phillips' vessel.

Maersk Line Limited said Tuesday that Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama are expected to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland late Wednesday. They are taking a chartered flight from Mombasa, Kenya. Phillips and crew will be reunited with loved ones at Andrews Air Force Base in a private reception area.

The wife of Phillips said Monday that her husband considers the U.S. military the "real heroes" of his ordeal.

The 19 crew members on the Alabama celebrated their skipper's freedom Monday night with beer and an evening barbecue in an area cordoned off from journalists, said crewman Ken Quinn, who ventured out holding a Tusker beer - a popular brew in Kenya, where the ship was docked.

(AP Photo/Sayyed Azim)
Tuesday morning, the crew left the cargo ship in the Kenyan resort city of Mombasa and boarded buses and checked into a hotel there.

At left: The crew of Maersk Alabama comes out of a bus as they arrive at the Serena Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, after handing over to the new crew and leaving the ship, April 14, 2009.

The crew walked into the hotel with luggage, but hotel security guards stopped journalists from entering.

CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reported that many shipping company bosses would rather run the risk of pirate attacks and absorb the cost of ransoms than confront the bandits.

Even the highest estimates put the total cost of piracy - including ransoms and patrols - at $50 billion worldwide. That doesn't compare to the cost of the ships or the value of their cargo, reported Logan.

"Really, from the point of view of business and shipping companies, it's seen as an acceptable business loss," said Peter Chalk, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation.

Watch Logan's full report from the CBS Evening News:



The primary motive for piracy has been money, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar. It's a lucrative multi-million dollar trade.

What the U.S. and its allies hope to do is to make the cost of that business so high, by attacking mother ships and putting more gunboats on the seas, that the pirates will give it up.

Now, reports MacVicar President Obama is considering new options to fight piracy.

Mr. Obama appeared to move the piracy issue higher on his agenda, vowing "to halt the rise of piracy" and saying the United States would work with nations elsewhere in the world.

"I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks," Mr. Obama said at a news conference Monday.

Before the latest hijackings, pirates were still holding some 230 foreign sailors hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off lawless Somalia.

The four pirates that attacked the Alabama were between 17 and 19 years old, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

"Untrained teenagers with heavy weapons," Gates told students and faculty at the Marine Corps War College. "Everybody in the room knows the consequences of that."

U.S. officials were now considering whether to bring the fourth pirate, who surrendered shortly before the sniper shootings, to the United States or possibly turn him over to Kenya. If he is brought to the U.S., he would most likely be put on trial in New York or Washington.

Click here to read more on the possible first U.S. trial of a suspected pirate from CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

Both piracy and hostage-taking carry life prison sentences under U.S. law.

The American ship had been carrying food aid bound for Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda when the ordeal began Wednesday hundreds of miles off Somalia's eastern coast. As the pirates clambered aboard and shot in the air, Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men.

Phillips was then taken hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was soon shadowed by three U.S. warships and a helicopter.

Navy SEAL snipers on the USS Bainbridge got the go-ahead to fire after one pirate held an AK-47 close to Phillips' back, U.S. Defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Snipers killed the three pirates with flawless single shots.

On Friday, the French navy freed a sailboat seized off Somalia last week by other pirates, but one of the hostages was killed. The pirates had seized a sailboat carrying Florent Lemacon, his wife, 3-year-old son and two friends off the Somali coast a week ago.

Two pirates were killed, and Lemacon died in an exchange of fire as he tried to duck down the hatch. Three pirates were taken prisoner in the operation, and are to be brought to France for criminal proceedings.