Pirates Again Target Maersk Alabama

The Maersk Alabama was targeted again by suspected Somali pirates today, a U.S. official told ABC News.

This is at least the third time pirates have targeted the Alabama, including the famous attack involving Capt. Richard Philips in the spring of 2009.

The official said that four suspected pirates approached the ship in a skiff, and a hook ladder could be seen in the boat. When the skiff came within half a nautical mile, the ship's captain authorized warning shots to be fired.

The pirates continued to approach, and the captain ordered aimed shots, which convinced the skiff to turn around and sail away.

Those shots likely were fired by contracted security on board, something that was added to the Alabama after the 2009 attack.

According to NATO's counter piracy operation, an attempted pirate attack that matched the event described to ABC News occurred today in waters between Kenya and Madagascar. It warned that "a Pirate Attack Group consisting of 1 white skiff with 4 POB [persons on board] with hooks and ladder was reported" and that the pirates were still in the area.

2009 Attack on Maersk Alabama Led to Hostage Standoff Involving Capt. Richard Phillips

In April 2009, the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by pirates who were overpowered by the crew -- but not before they captured the ship's captain, Phillips, who was held for days in one of the Alabama's lifeboats until Navy snipers killed his captors.

The second attack occurred in September 2010, when, according to the London-based International Maritime Organization, five pirates armed with AK-47s in a skiff targeted the ship as it was sailing off the Somali coast.

One of the pirates implicated in the 2009 hijacking, Abduwali Abdiqadir Muse, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in February in a New York federal court to 34 years in prison.