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US-owned cruise ship is attacked by pirates

NAIROBI -- Pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at a US-owned cruise ship carrying more than 300 people in the Indian Ocean yesterday, but no one was hurt, its owners said.

Men in two small boats approached the Seabourn Cruise Line ship Spirit about 100 miles off the Somali coast, fired on it, and tried to board in an apparent bid to rob passengers and crew, cruise line spokesman Bruce Good said.

''I looked out of the window and saw a small boat with about five people in it about 20 yards away," said Norman Fisher, 55, a passenger.

''They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice. One of the rockets certainly hit the ship. It went through the side of the liner into a passenger's suite."

The 161-member crew gathered the 151 passengers into a central lounge away from windows and decks during the attack, said Good.

''The captain managed to change the course of the vessel and speed away. Most of the passengers are believed to be Americans or Western Europeans. No one was hurt," said Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator for the Seafarers' Association in neighboring Kenya.

Indian Ocean waters off the Somali coast are classed as among the most dangerous in the world.

The Bahamian-registered Seabourn ship was on a 16-day cruise from Egypt to Mombasa, Kenya. The 10,000-ton vessel sailed on to the Seychelles Islands, where passengers were to disembark and fly to Mombasa, Good said.

Seabourn is headquartered in Miami and is a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.

Authorities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Seychelles were investigating, Good said.

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