- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - A U.S. military official said Navy Seals and other officers opened fire on three pirates when a Navy commander made a split-second decision that an American hostage’s life was in danger.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney also said the pirates made a ransom demand for the release of Capt. Richard Phillips.

Gortney said the pirates threatened throughout the ordeal to kill Phillips. Gortney said the pirates were armed with AK-47s and small-caliber pistols, and were pointing the AK-47s at the captain.

Gortney said the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge believed Phillips was in “imminent danger” when he ordered sailors to fire at the armed pirates.

Gortney said the White House had given “very clear guidance and authority” that if any time the commander Capt. Phillips’ life was in danger to take action to make sure it was not.

Gortney spoke in a telephone conference call from Bahrain. He is the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

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