MOMBASA, Kenya — An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday in a swift firefight that killed three of the four Somali pirates who had been holding him for days in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa, the ship’s owner said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Capt. Richard Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat was in custody.
Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was safely transported to a Navy warship nearby.
Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart said in a news release that the U.S. government informed the company around 1:30 p.m. EDT Sunday that Phillips had been rescued. Reinhart said the company called Phillips’ wife, Andrea, to tell her the news.
The U.S. official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.
When Phillips’ crew heard the news aboard their ship in the port of Mombasa, they placed an American flag over the rail of the top of the Maersk Alabama and whistled and pumped their fists in the air. Crew fired a bright red flare into the sky from the ship.
A government official and others in Somali with knowledge of the situation had reported hours earlier that negotiations for Phillips’ release had broken down.
• Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writers who contributed to this report include Mohamed Olad Hassan and Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia and Michelle Faul and Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya.