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Lesson from foiled pirate attack on Maersk Alabama? Fire back.

Monday's thwarted pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama was the first time a large cargo ship with an armed security team were able to repel an attack, according to US Navy commanders.

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The lesson from an unsuccessful pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden this week was simple: Guns talk.

The Maersk Alabama, the American-flagged ship infamously attacked by pirates in April, was attacked again Monday when Somali pirates opened fire on the ship in an attempt to board it. But the pirates didn't get far this time, after a four-man security team aboard the ship fired back, thwarting the attack.

It's the first time a large cargo ship with an armed security team aboard is known to have repelled an attack, says Vice Adm. William Gortney, who commands the Pacific region for the US Navy.

Still, only about 10 percent of the shipping industry's ships employ "best practices" that include hiring an onboard security team, Gortney said.

In Monday's attack, the Maersk Alabama used a powerful loudspeaker system, called a long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, that can be painful to the human ear and fend off attackers. But the nonlethal device was not effective, Gortney said at the Pentagon Wednesday. The pirates were stopped only when the Maersk Alabama began returning fire, he said.

"A well-placed round from an M-16 is far more effective than that LRAD," he said.

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