The U.S. Navy has rescued the American sea captain kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
In Bahrain, the head of U.S. Navy Central Command, Vice Admiral Bill
Gortney, said the commander on the scene believed Captain Richard
Phillips was in imminent danger Sunday when he ordered Navy snipers to
open fire on the pirates.
Three pirates were killed. A fourth was taken into custody.
Admiral Gortney said at least one of the pirates was pointing a rifle
at Phillips when snipers opened fire. Gortney said U.S. President
Barack Obama had authorized commanders to use force if they believed
Phillips was in danger.
The freed hostage was taken to a U.S. Navy ship, where he was examined and determined to be in good health.
President Obama expressed pleasure with the rescue. In a written
statement, Mr. Obama praised the effort of the military and other
government agencies that worked to free Captain Phillips.
A family spokeswoman told reporters (in the northeastern state of Vermont) Phillips
and his wife spoke by telephone. Mrs. Phillips asked the spokeswoman to
thank well-wishers for their caring and concern during the family's
Somali pirates took Phillips hostage on Wednesday, after an unsuccessful attempt to hijack his vessel, the Maersk Alabama.
Crew members of the ship, which is now in Mombasa, Kenya, say the
captain saved their lives by giving himself up to the kidnappers.
The ship is carrying a cargo of food aid for African refugees.
The U.S. Navy has been patrolling the waters off Somalia in response to
numerous pirate attacks and hijackings off the Somali coast. Pirates
have hijacked at least six vessels in the last week, including an
Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew members on Saturday.
Last year, the pirates seized more than 40 vessels, sometimes receiving
ransom payments of more than a million dollars for a ship's release.
Law enforcement in Somalia is weak, making it a convenient place for
pirates to hijack ships offshore and hold them in bases on the coast.