U.S. Navy snipers fatally shot three pirates holding an American cargo-ship captain hostage after seeing that one of the pirates "had an AK-47 leveled at the captain's back," a military official said Sunday.
The captain, who'd been held in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean since Wednesday, was rescued uninjured, Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters.
Capt. Richard Phillips' ship, the Maersk Alabama, was stormed by pirates 350 miles off Somalia on Wednesday morning. He was "resting comfortably" on the USS Boxer after his rescue Sunday night, according to the Navy.
Phillips contacted his family and received a routine medical exam after his rescue at 7:19 p.m. (12:19 p.m. ET), the Navy Central Command said. Video from aboard the Boxer showed a smiling Phillips shaking hands with Navy personnel.
"The captain is in good health. He's showered up and in a clean set of clothes," Gortney said in a telephone news conference from Navy Central Command in Bahrain.
BlackFive has more details:
just finished listening to the press conference w/ ADM Gortney about the rescue of Captain Phillips. At the time it happened the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat to calmer waters as the sea state was deteriorating. One of the pirates was on board the Bainbridge as the talks about obtaining Phillip's release continued. The lifeboat was approx. 25 m behind the Bainbridge when snipers on the fantail observed one of the pirates in the pilot house of the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 at the back of a tied up Phillips and the other two pirates on board were visible (at least shoulders and heads). The standing authority gave them clearance to engage the pirates if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. The on scene commander deemed this to be true and gave the order to fire. All three bad guys were taken out and then a rigid inflatable boat went to the lifeboat to retrieve Phillips. Iti is unknown at this point whether the shooters were SEALs or Marine Scout Snipers as both would have been available. This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.
The commander on the scene had ultimate authority to make a judgment call if he felt a hostage was in imminent danger and he did just that, killing all the pirates and saving the captain's life.
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