The Somali pirates have gotten a bit too cocky, it seems. This morning they hijacked their sixth ship of the week, which happened to be the Maersk Alabama, which happened to be crewed by 21 Americans who happened to be carrying "thousands of tons" of relief aid to Mombasa.
The White House has said its first priority is the safety of the crew members, but we imagine they are not going to exercise much patience in their negotiations; after all, they are kind of busy at the moment, and this is an extremely annoying distraction. Pirates, get ready for a smackdown. [NYT]
Update: Wait, we're rethinking this now. Maybe a smackdown isn't inevitable. William Langeweische (who is kind of hot, by the way; have you seen his picture? Interesting) wrote a story in Vanity Fair this month about the capture of a French ship by Somali pirates that basically concludes that because the pirates are basically peaceful and nonpolitical, the best way out of these situations, if you want to protect the hostages, is to simply hand the pirates a sack of cash.
For all its firepower and training, the French Navy was neutralized by the fact that Ahmed never threatened to start executing the hostages, and that for whatever reason he actually cared about their welfare. As a result, the best the French Navy could do was stand by, eat well, and serve as bagmen for the money.
Considering how much money the U.S. is burning through lately, another payout here shouldn't be much of an issue.
UPDATE AGAIN!!!!: Pentagon officials are saying the American crew has retaken control of the ship! The information is "preliminary," says the AP, but according to a source, they have one pirate in custody! AND "the status of the other pirates was unknown but they were reported to 'be in the water.'" YEAH. That'll teach you to mess with American ships, pirates!