Pirates attack Amazon

A Melbourne, Australia couple have recounted the terror of waiting to be killed by pirates who attacked and robbed the luxury cruise ship on which they were travelling in the Amazon…

Financial planners Christina Ibbotson and Keith Lawson had just started their dream month-long South American holiday when gunmen stormed their cruise ship on the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon in a dawn raid last Tuesday.

There were 12 Australians – mostly from NSW – among the 28 middle-aged passengers on board the MV Aqua, which had been attacked and ransacked by pirates only 10 days earlier.

Ms Ibbotson first became aware of the attack when she heard shots fired outside her cabin and saw a man armed with a machine-gun coming towards her.

''Your mind just doesn't register that pirates had boarded the ship and when I saw the bandit coming towards me, I just shut the door,'' she said. The St Kilda Road couple, in their 60s, then endured a terrifying 25-minute wait in their cabin wondering if all the other passengers had been murdered or if the pirates planned to take them as hostages for ransom.

''It is indescribable what goes through your mind when you think you are going to be dead in the next 10 minutes,'' Ms Ibbotson told The Age from Peru yesterday.

''You think if you get shot, is it going to hurt? Are they going to take us and ransom us? Have they killed the others and are they going to kill us? It was mortifying.''

The bandits stormed the couple's cabin last and robbed them at gunpoint of all their cash, cameras and jewellery before forcing them into another cabin.

Most of the passengers – including four Britons, two Americans and four Spaniards – were in the ship's breakfast room when the pirates attacked and were robbed, then bound and forced to lie on the floor. One Spaniard managed to dive overboard and was found safe eight hours later. There were two undercover policemen on board after the attack more than a week earlier but both were quickly overpowered by the six bandits who were armed with grenades and automatic weapons.

Ms Ibbotson said most of the passengers were angry they had not been warned of the first pirate attack and said they had not heard anything from the Peruvian company Aqua Expeditions since.

The Peruvian Minister for Tourism, Martin Perez, has reportedly vowed to provide Coast Guard and National Police escorts for cruises in the region, to step up patrols and to increase security officers on board vessels in a bid to salvage the area's tourism reputation.

''This incident is of national importance as tourism is a vital activity in the region,'' Mr Perez said.

Aqua Expeditions has reportedly changed its itinerary to avoid the area of the latest raid.

Source: www.theage.com.au