April 14th, 2009
09:13 PM ET

Pirates attack U.S. cargo ship but fail to get aboard

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Editor's note: See Anderson's exclusive interview with the mother of an American sailor aboard the UN ship Liberty Sun that was fired on by pirates today while carrying grain on a humanitarian relief mission off the coast of Somalia - on AC360 at 10PM ET.

The Liberty Sun, a U.S.-flagged cargo ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya, was attacked Tuesday by Somali pirates, according to the company and a NATO source with direct knowledge of the matter "The pirates fired rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel which sustained damage," said a statement from New York-based Liberty Maritime Corporation, which owns the vessel.

The ship was carrying U.S. food aid for African nations, the statement said. It was an unsuccessful attack, and the pirates never made it onto the ship. The vessel is now being escorted by a coalition ship, still bound for Mombasa, officials said.

Katy Urbik, of Wheaton, Illinois, told CNN her son, Thomas, was aboard the Liberty Sun at the time of the attack and shared the e-mails he sent as the ship came under fire.

"We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets," say one e-mail sent Tuesday afternoon. "We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. [A] rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire too but put out. "Navy is on the way and helos and ships are coming. I'll try to send you another message soon. [G]ot to go now. I love you mom and dad and all my brothers and family."

About an hour and a half later, Thomas Urbik sent another email to his mother, saying, "The navy has showed up in full force and we are now under military escort ... all is well. I love you all and thank you for the prayers."

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