- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

UPDATED:

U.S. sharpshooters rescued Capt. Richard Phillips on Sunday by killing three Somali pirates while towing the lifeboat where the captain had been held hostage for five days, the U.S. military said.

Thee sharpshooters opened fire from the USS Bainbridge when one of the pirates pointed an assault rifle at Capt. Phillips’ back.

A fourth pirate, who earlier had surrendered, was arrested.

Capt. Phillips was unharmed, and the rescue ended a crisis that had tested U.S. resolve during the first big hostage crisis faced by the Obama administration.

“This was an incredible team effort, and I am extremely proud of the tireless efforts of all the men and women who made this rescue possible,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

“The actions of Capt. Phillips and the civilian mariners of Maersk-Alabama were heroic. They fought back to regain control of their ship, and Capt. Phillips selflessly put his life in the hands of these armed criminals in order to protect his crew,” the admiral told reporters.

Capt. Phillips was taken aboard the Norfolk-based guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge and then flown to the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

“He contacted his family, received a routine medical evaluation and is resting comfortably,” the Navy said.

Capt. Phillips had been held hostage since Wednesday, when Somali pirates boarded his cargo ship, the Maersk-Alabama, as it was transporting food and relief supplies for African refugees.

The crew regained control of the ship, but pirates kept control of Capt. Phillips and fled with their hostage in a lifeboat.

Capt. Phillips has been described by his crew as a hero for leaving the Alabama with pirates to save his ship.

“I would like at this moment to send my kind regards to the Phillips family,” Joseph Murphy, the father of the Alabama's second in command, Shane Murphy, said in a statement read by a reporter on CNN, which first reported the escape..

Shane Murphy took over as the Alabama's captain after Capt. Phillips abandoned ship and sailed the cargo vessel to its original destination, Mombassa, Kenya.

Shane Murphy remained on board with the rest of the crew as U.S. authorities continued their investigation.

“Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday. I have made it clear throughout this terrible ordeal that my son and our family will forever be indebted to Capt. Phillips for his bravery. If not for his incredible personal sacrifice, this kidnapping and act of terror could have turned out much worse,” the elder Mr. Murphy said.

Dan O´Shea, a former Navy SEAL who also served as the director of the Hostage Working Group in Iraq, said the U.S. Navy was unwilling to let the drifting lifeboat reach the Somali coast.

“[The pirates] had run out of gas; they would soon be running out of food and water. [The Navy] wanted to wear out the hostage takers and deplete their resources, because the longer the clock ticks, the better it is for the good guys and harder on the kidnappers,” Mr. O'Shea said. An FBI hostage tream had advised the Navy as it negotiated with the pirates.

“I´m not sorry the pirates were killed,” Mr. O´Shea said. “Unfortunately, the only thing these types of pirates understand is force.

“And once you start paying ransom, you create a cottage industry that cripples the world. But today we sent a strong message that if you come after an American ship with an American crew, we are going to come after you, and we are going to get our people back,” he said.


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