US Pursues Hijacked Ship in Somali Waters
Pirates take Japanese cargo vessel loaded with benzene
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2007 12:00 PM CDT
The USS Porter.   (NATO Photos)
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(Newser) – A US warship is hot on the trail of a Japanese cargo vessel hijacked by pirates off Somalia. USS Porter sank pirate skiffs that had been tied to the Golden Mori when it sent distress signals Sunday. But after the bombardment, authorities learned that the Panamanian-flagged Mori contains benzene, a highly flammable, carcinogenic substance used to make plastic, reports CNN.

Piracy off the Horn of Africa has prompted officials to warn merchant ships to remain 200 miles off the Somali coastline, and NATO and US warships regularly patrol international waters. The crew of another hijacked ship, a North Korean-flagged vessel, retook control from pirates today after being attacked last night. That ship is heading back to port in Mogadishu.

Pirate ships are known to make false distress calls to draw ships within reach of the coast, where pursuing warships have not entered until today.