The Somali pirate standoff finally ends as Navy Seals shoot and kill three pirates and rescue captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama, who had been held for four days in an 18-foot lifeboat.
Right before his rescue, Richard Phillips, the 53-year-old captain of the Maersk Alabama, was being held in a 18-foot lifeboat in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. The pirates were armed with AK-47s and small-calibre pistols, said Vice Admiral William E. Gortney, who spoke from Bahrain to reporters in Washington.
Just after dark on Sunday, snipers on the U.S.S. Bainbridge saw that one of the pirates was pointing an automatic rifle at Captain Phillips, and that the captors’ heads and shoulders were exposed from the capsule-like lifeboat. President Obama had previously authorised the use of force if the commander on the scene believed the captain’s life was in danger, so they fired, Admiral Gortney said. The lifeboat was about 100 feet from the Bainbridge when the shots were fired, shortly after 7 p.m. Somalia time (seven hours ahead of Eastern time). Asked where Captain Phillips was at the time the shots were fired, Admiral Gortney said he was not sure but that he had to be less than 18 feet away, the length of the lifeboat.