US official says 3 pirates may be dead in shootout

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. defense official says the military believes that three pirates were killed in a gunfight among themselves on the ship they hijacked off Somalia's coast.

The official says there was an argument among the pirates that escalated into a shootout. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, and he refused to elaborate or provide details. Several U.S. ships have been watching the vessel.

Officials believe several dozen pirates are holding the Ukrainian ship Faina, which is carrying a cargo of Soviet-designed tanks and weapons. The U.S. Navy has surrounded the vessel with a half dozen ships in hopes of preventing the pirates from taking any of the weapons ashore.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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