Archive for Monday, April 13, 2009

Kidnapped U.S. captain freed; snipers kill 3 pirates

Maersk-Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips, right, is welcomed by Cmdr. Frank Castellano, executive officer of the USS Bainbridge, after being rescued by U.S. naval forces off the coast of Somalia.

Maersk-Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips, right, is welcomed by Cmdr. Frank Castellano, executive officer of the USS Bainbridge, after being rescued by U.S. naval forces off the coast of Somalia.

April 13, 2009


— Navy Seal snipers on the fantail of a destroyer cut down three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescued an American sea captain on Easter Sunday. The surprise nighttime assault in choppy seas ended a five-day standoff between a team of rogue gunmen and the world’s most powerful military.

It was a stunning conclusion to an Indian Ocean odyssey that began when 53-year-old freighter Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage Wednesday by pirates who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. The Vermont native was held on a tiny lifeboat that began drifting precariously toward Somalia’s anarchic, gun-plagued shores.

The operation, personally approved by President Barack Obama, quashed fears the saga could drag on for months and marked a victory for the U.S., which for days seemed powerless to resolve the crisis despite massing helicopter-equipped warships at the scene.

Negotiations with the three pirates were growing heated, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

One of them pointed an AK-47 at the back of Phillips, who was tied up and in “imminent danger” of being killed when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge made the split-second decision to order his men to shoot, Gortney said. Navy snipers took aim at the pirates’ heads and shoulders, he said.

The lifeboat was about 25-30 yards away and was being towed by the Bainbridge at the time, he said. The pirates had agreed to the tow to move the powerless lifeboat out of rough water.

A fourth pirate surrendered after boarding the Bainbridge earlier in the day and could face life in a U.S. prison. He had been seeking medical attention for a wound to his hand and was negotiating with U.S. officials on conditions for Phillips’ release, military officials said.

The rescue was a dramatic blow to the pirates who have preyed on international shipping and hold more than a dozen ships with about 230 foreign sailors. But it is unlikely to do much to quell the region’s growing pirate threat, which has transformed one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into one of its most dangerous. It also risked provoking retaliatory attacks.

“This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding the Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” he told The Associated Press. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told the AP from one of Somalia’s piracy hubs, Eyl, that: “From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages).”

“Now they became our No. 1 enemy,” Habeb said of U.S. forces.

Phillips was not hurt in several minutes of gunfire and the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet said he was resting comfortably on a U.S. warship after receiving a medical exam.

Aboard the Bainbridge, sailors passed along a message from Andrea Phillips to her husband: “Richard, your family loves you, your family is praying for you, and your family is saving a chocolate Easter egg for you, unless your son eats it first.”

Phillips himself deflected any praise.

“I’m just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home,” Phillips said.


salad 8 years ago

This is so awesome I can hardly believe it! USA-3 Pirates-0 Navy seals!!!

jaywalker 8 years ago

Gotta love the Seals. My guess is an allied naval force will be patrolling this area from here on out, should have started months ago.

BigAl 8 years ago

Mr Nancy is feeling a bit left out this morning. It is just killing the corrupt far-right that this episode came out well.
Go Navy! Nice job from top to bottom.

It isn't the mainstream media that is hurting this country, it is the far-right media including talk radio and FOX News. I wonder how Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck etc... will spin this into something bad for President Obama?

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

The SEALs got all Stephen Decatur on the pirates!

salad 8 years ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says…

"Obama's first 'military victory' the mainstream media is saying this morning. If Bush had given this order, the left would be screaming, “Murderer”! and the mainstream media would be aready questioning whether or not Bush needed to take such drastic measures, exclaiming that the pirates had not killed anyone."

HA!!! You know just as well as anyone else, that if this were Bushs' call, he would have been complete paralyzed with confusion about why Johnny Depp had taken a hostage. He be further confused, "I thought I'd already invadified Somalia.....maybe Karl can show me where that is on that map-thingy."

salad 8 years ago

"But seriously, good job marines! The pirates better hijack French ships from now on."

French commandos have successfully freed at least three hijacked ships during this current crisis. Killing most of the pirates in the process. Sarkozy is pretty quick to pull the trigger on lethal action.

meggers 8 years ago


Way to turn a heroic mission into a partisan p*ssing match. As for your 'Tea Parties', CSPAN will likely cover them, however you might be pretty confused without your favorite Fox anchors to tell you what to think.

salad 8 years ago

"But I can hit a beer can at 25-30 meters with a BB gun."

No you can't. A meter is not the same as a foot and that's pretty much beyond the acurate range of BB gun.

BigDog 8 years ago

Thank you Meggers!

This should not be about politics ... from either side. It should be about this being the right thing to do no matter who occupies the White House ..... and if we want to debate something debate the issue of what actions the United States takes next ..... and whether it is a good idea or not ..... cut the damn debates about which party proposes an idea (both have good ideas and bad ideas).

tolawdjk 8 years ago

What actions does the US take next?

Park a carrier battle group off the coast.

Sink pirate motherships on sight.

Tow out of fuel pirate row boats further out to sea and cut them loose.

Issue Letters of Marque.

Chris Golledge 8 years ago

I'm wondering which way this will go; will the pirates seek revenge on US interests, or will the individual pirates pause and think, 'You know, the last time some of us attacked a US flagged ship, it did not go well. I think I'll go after some other ship.'? I suspect it could go either way, but I picture individual pirates, on their own in a big ocean, leaning toward the latter. A well-organized pirate group might convince the individuals in it to do more of the former. What happens next might be a telling point of the state of affairs in Somalia.

On thinking about the issue with the other nations not being allowed within Somali territory, one could argue that providing safe harbor to people attacking US interests is an act of aggression against the US. Whatever limited government exists in Somalia better think carefully about where this might lead. Not that I'm advocating invading another country, or particularly thrilled with the idea of the US taking on more prisoners from other countries, but if they are unable or unwilling to police themselves, what ground do they have to stand on in saying that we can't do it?

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Anyone wondering of these pirates were looking for Taliban backing, what with making US forces their No. 1 enemy? I'm taking salad's word for it here, but if French forces have already freed at least 3 ships, killing most of the pirates in the process, how do we rate a No. 1 seat, freeing one ship and killing just 3 pirates? And are they all a part of a pirates union? Unless they're all from the same band (what do you call a group of pirates?), wouldn't having some of the competition picked off be good for business?

jonas_opines 8 years ago

"A little voice is telling me this action while small in scope, yet very large symbolically is going to revitalize the will of America haters."

You should know by now that little voice is just your imagination, and that it's usually wrong in some way.

wyattearp2 8 years ago


What did the marines have to do with this.... Exactly, Nothing, the Navy Seals were there to protect the marines and the entire Naval ship and also to set the Captain Free.....

jonas_opines 8 years ago

Why did you ask Salad that, wyatt? The originator of the Marines comment was Arumer. Check your sources more carefully.

ArumerZwarteHoop (Anonymous) says…

The democrat’s first victory since their glorious triumph over that civilian church in Texas.

But seriously, good job marines! The pirates better hijack French ships from now on.

craigers 8 years ago

Our military strikes and wins!!

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years ago

Guns don't solve anything!

Oh wait. They do.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Considering that the snipers were on a ship moving up and down with the waves and firing at targets on a small boat that was also moving, three 30 meter headshots equals darned good shooting,IMHO.

grimpeur 8 years ago

Pavlova writes:

"If Bush had given this order, the left would be screaming, “Murderer”! and the mainstream media would be aready questioning whether or not Bush needed to take such drastic measures, exclaiming that the pirates had not killed anyone."

Bush would not have taken these measures. Instead he'd have have invaded Egypt (or Kenya, or Denmark), with the festering boils known as his acolytes cheering him on in his typically feckless quest.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

cg - I'm thinking it will be more of the former; pirates wouldn't want to look like sissies. Plus, I'd imagine people who's livihood is provided through crime have a lower respect for life, both theirs and others, than law-abiding folk, especially those in second or third world countries.

Tom McCune 8 years ago

The traditional treatment of pirates in the old days was to hang their dead bodies from gibbets at the entrance to the nearest harbor as an example to others, which is what should be done in this case.

JHOK32 8 years ago

Well I guess this ends the discussion on how Obama will measure up against terrorists.........Cheney you can shut your flap now!

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Oh, give the "If Bush had done this" crap a rest. Before Obama had even been in the White House two months, there was a question on this website, whether associated with LJW or not, asking if people were sorry they had voted for him and those who hadn't voted for him jumping up and down because the stock market reached an all time low, as if it hadn't already been in a steady decline for over a year under Bush. The only good thing to come out of Bush's administration, as far as I'm concerned, is that Sadam was captured and hanged. And it was the US that hanged him, that was the Iraqi government.

Danimal 8 years ago

I don't know why everyone is so impressed. This is what you do with pirates, you kill them all, it's the law. They haven't had to do it in a while but our Navy's been tackling piracy since a couple years after the War of Independence. I don't know what the Merchant Marines are doing these days, but they need to get over to the Horn of Africa region and start slaying pirates.

Summerguuurl007 8 years ago

Of course the United States has to bully the poor Somalis yet again. It's fitting that Mr. Obama would want to terrorize his African ancestors. Shame!

georgeofwesternkansas 8 years ago

If I am one of those dead pirates I am thinking right now, I wish torture was not against the law, I would rather be water boarded than dead.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Esq2eB - yes, I meant the US did NOT hang him. And while you say we hunted him down and captured him, as I recall, it was more like we stumbled across him in a spiderhole. I'd trade "capturing" him for capturing Bin Laden 10 times over.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Did_I_say_that - when were manners ever a consideration in any thread around here?

oldcat 8 years ago

Danimal, you might want to google Merchant Marines before posting the suggestion you did.

beatrice 8 years ago

If this had been President Bush, there would already be a banner on the lifeboat that reads "Mission Accomplished."

Glad this story ended without the loss of a single American life.

Danimal 8 years ago

Why's is that old cat? Is it un-PC for the Merchant Marines to kill pirates now? No one had a problem with MM blowing up U boats in WWII or killing scores of VC and NVA in Vietnam. Time for them to put down their knitting and pick up rifles again. For some light reading try

I don't think that John Paul Jones would have had a problem with dispatching pirates while he was a merchant marine.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 8 years ago

Rule 1: Don't mess with the US military. Rule 2: See rule 1.

oldcat 8 years ago

Danimal, care to provide a link showing the killing of scores of VC and NVA. They carried weapons and supplies in. They are not and never were combat troops.

tin 8 years ago

First think the POTUS has done right in my opinion. Good job, POTUS and the military that the left hates.

jumpin_catfish 8 years ago

All merchant marine should be armed to defend themselves from these pirates. Also, if you're a pirate the navy should afford you one opportunity to surrender and then if you refuse well its Davy Jones' locker.

jaywalker 8 years ago

"It isn't the mainstream media that is hurting this country, it is the far-right media including talk radio and FOX News. I wonder how Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck etc…'

Right! 'Cuz ONE tv network and ONE of a hundred Am/Fm channels have much more influence than the 100's the 'mainstream media' has. So, so very sad............. I hate conspiracy theories, and am not saying there's any such thing underfoot.....but at this point if there's a way to report about BO in a positive light just 'cuz he's "using the facilities", it'll be a headline. Sorry, the last time the media loved all over a president like this, Luke Skywalker hadn't been born yet, know what I mean?

ilikestuff 8 years ago

The best way to solve this problem is the maritime equivalent of a flight plan. Then allow navies to sink any "unauthorized" &/or aggressive vessel/s in the shipping lanes.

The idea of using "non-lethal" force to deter pirates is an unwise one. Evasive driving and fire hoses aren’t successful on ships that take 10 minutes to turn & when the bad guys are firing automatic weapons.

We should have addressed this in ’93 yet here they are, still at it. If we’re going to successfully address this we need to hit them hard & continue to do so until they either can’t go on or are afraid to.

triplegoddess13 8 years ago

“Every country will be treated the way it treats us." so said pirate Lami. Don't they (the pirates) start these little things or am I missing something here? Aren't they only getting what they deserve for what they started to begin with?

compmd 8 years ago

A lesson to be learned here is that if you have a multimillion dollar ship, you should give your captain $5000 to blow at a gun show to defend said boat. A high power assault rifle with much better accuracy and range than an AK-47 can be bought here in Lawrence for less than $500, and a devastatingly accurate sniper rifle can be acquired for less than $700. I know someone who runs a charter service out of the Virgin Islands who does this. He had a $300,000 boat taken by pirates and he was left in the dinghy out at sea. Now he has a new boat and is heavily armed, and pirates leave him alone.

Sigmund 8 years ago

Esq2eB (Anonymous) says… "... and then come on here post ignorant statements like that. I get the feeling once you are at least informed on the topic, you will refrain from doing so."

Wanna bet?

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