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‘Frightening experience’ recounted

MAHE, Seychelles – Pirates who attacked a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia grinned as they aimed grenade-launchers and machine guns at the deck and staterooms, some passengers said Monday, recounting the ordeal after safely docking in this Indian Ocean archipelago.

The ship escaped by shifting to high speed and changing course, and the cruise line said Monday the crew also used a sonic weapon, which blasts earsplitting noise in a directed beam, as it tried to ward off the attack.

“I tell you, it was a very frightening experience,” Charles Supple, of Fiddletown, Calif., said by phone.

The retired physician and World War II veteran said he started to take a photograph of a pirate craft, and “the man with the bazooka aimed it right at me, and I saw a big flash.

“Needless to say, I dropped the camera and dived. The grenade struck two decks above and about four rooms further forward,” he said. “I could tell the guy firing the bazooka was smiling.”

The Seabourn Spirit had been bound for Kenya when it was attacked by pirates armed with grenade launchers and machine guns on Saturday about 100 miles off Somalia’s lawless coast.

The gunmen never got close enough to board the cruise ship, but one member of the 161-person crew was injured by shrapnel, according to the Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.

Relieved holiday-makers praised the ship’s captain for foiling the attack, but some said they were lucky to escape with their lives.

A woman survived an explosion in her stateroom simply because she was taking a bath at the time. Others flung themselves to the floor to avoid bullets that were zipping through the ship, Charles Forsdick, of Durban, South Africa, told Associated Press Television News.