The U.S. Navy freed an American ship captain held captive by pirates off the coast of Somalia late Sunday when snipers killed three of the four men holding him, ending a standoff that began with the attack last week of a Maersk Line container ship.
The snipers fired from the nearby USS Bainbridge as pirates pointed AK-47 weapons at Capt. Richard Phillips, according to an account released by the Navy. The commmander of the U.S. warship ordered the men to open fire and Phillips was freed unharmed.
The Navy said in a statement that Phillips was freed early in the evening local time and taken first first to the Bainbridge, a Naval destroyer that led a group of ships from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet that converged on the scene in the Indian Ocean where Pirates had attacked and briefly captured the Maersk Alabama last week.
Phillips as then taken to the USS Boxer for a medical exam and officials said he was resting comfortably.
The Navy said the surviving pirate surrendered and was taken alive.
Phillips’ rescue ended a nearly week-long drama in the lawless waters off the coast of Somalia that highlighted a new wave of piracy on a maritime thoroughfare that has become a treachorous path for ships. After being relatively quiet in recent months, pirates based in Somalia, which has been effectively without a government for some 15 years, mounted a series of attacks on ships in the Indian Ocean over the last three weeks. They failed in a hijacking attempt on a Zim container ship but captured an itinerant German owned vessel before attacking the Maersk Alabama.
The pirates seized the 1998-built, 1,092-TEU vessel for a time before the crew turned the tables and took it back. But Phillips gave himself up as a hostage, freed crewmembers said, in exchange for the crewmembers’ safety and pirates held him aboard an enclosed lifeboard for five days as warships circled the scene.