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Pentagon Official Mum on Pirate Hostage Details

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2009 – A senior Pentagon spokesman today declined to provide details on the ongoing situation involving a U.S. maritime captain being held hostage by pirates in a small boat adrift off the coast of Somalia.

“There will be a point in time where we can be fully forthcoming with what the military role was and our thinking on it, and why we did what we did," Bryan Whitman told reporters. “That time is not right now.”

The paramount concern of all agencies involved is obtaining the safe return of the hostage, Whitman said.

Armed pirates attacked the cargo ship Maersk Alabama about 300 miles off the Somali coast on April 8. The unarmed ship’s 20-member American crew eventually regained control of the vessel, but the captain offered himself as a hostage to forestall violence.

The captain and his four pirate captors continue to share a small boat that’s adrift in open sea. Whitman said there is “no information to suggest the ship’s captain has been physically harmed.”

The Navy is monitoring the situation, Whitman said, noting that at least two vessels, the destroyer USS Bainbridge and the guided-missile frigate USS Halyburton, are now in the vicinity.

“I’m not going to comment on other resources that might join in this effort, beyond the Halyburton and the Bainbridge, at this point,” Whitman said.

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