Workers of an Israeli security firm thwarted attempts by Somalian pirates on Saturday night to kidnap an Italian pleasure cruiser with its 1,500 passengers, in the Indian Ocean.
The ship’s commander, Ciro Pinto, said that six pirates on a motorized raft approached the ocean liner, Melody, while it was cruising about 180 miles (290 km) north of the Seychelles Islands and about 500 miles (800 km) east of Somalia on the African coast. The pirates attempted to climb aboard with a ladder, and even opened fire, lightly damaging the hull. However, none of the passengers or crewmembers were hurt.
Pinto reported that he subsequently instructed the Israeli security guards to remove their pistols from the safe and to fire towards the pirates. The ship concurrently made maneuvers to make it harder for the attackers.
“We started to fire. When they saw us firing, and even when we splashed water at them, they gave up and left,” Pinto said. “It felt like we were in a war,” Pinto added.
The head of Msc Cruises, Domenico Pellegrino, said that the Italian cruise line hired the Israelis because they were the best trained. Cruise line security work is a popular job for Israelis who are released from their mandatory military stint.
The cruise ship continued as scheduled to the Gulf of Eilat. The Melody was on a 22-day cruise from Durban, South Africa to Genoa, Italy.
An Oceanliner with a Tragic Past
As of March 2008, Msc was the third largest cruise line in the world. However, the company has had a tragic past. Originally founded as Lauro Lines by Achille Lauro, the company entered the cruise business in the 1960s. One of its ships, Angelina Lauro, went on fire in the port of St.Thomas in 1979, and another one, Achille Lauro, gained notoriety when Palestine Liberation Front terrorists hijacked it in 1985.
The terrorists shot and wounded a disabled American tourist, 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer. They then threw him overboard, in his wheelchair; some reports say he was not dead when thrown overboard. After a two-day drama, the hijackers surrendered in exchange for a pledge of safe passage. But when an Egyptian jet tried to fly the hijackers to freedom, U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercepted it and forced it to land in Sicily. The terrorists were subsequently taken into custody by Italian authorities.