US captain rescued, three of four pirates killed
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Navy on Sunday dramatically ended a high-seas standoff with Somali pirates, rescuing a US captain held hostage on a lifeboat for five days, killing three of his four captors.
"At approximately 7:19 pm (1619 GMT) US naval forces rescued Capt. Richard Phillips, the master of Motor Vessel Maersk-Alabama," US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.
"US military forces have one pirate in custody, three were killed in the rescue," according to the Navy statement.
"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 AdmiralBill Gortney, commander of Central Command.
In Washington, President Barack Obama -- who has been largely silent on the crisis -- said he was "very pleased" that Phillips had been rescued.
The captain's safety "has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew," Obama said in a statement.
Obama also said that the United States remains "resolved" to combat piracy off the Somali coast.
Phillips was first taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, one of two US naval warships involved in the tense standoff off the Somali coast, before being transferred to the assault ship USS Boxer, where he contacted his family in the United States and received a routine medical evaluation.
He is now "resting comfortably," the Navy said.
Maersk Line, the Norfolk, Virginia-based shipping company that operated the cargo ship Phillips captained, said its president John Reinhart informed the captain's wife Andrea after getting confirmation of the rescue from the US government.
The crew of the Maersk Alabama ship "was jubilant when they received word," Reinhart said in a statement.
"We are all absolutely thrilled to learn that Richard is safe and will be re-united with his family," he added.
"We join Richard's family, his crew and his colleagues ashore in celebrating this wonderful news. We look forward to welcoming him home in the coming days."
Phillips, who was unharmed in the operation, jumped out of the lifeboat, according to the CNN.
Phillips on Friday attempted to escape by jumping overboard, but the pirates were able to get him back on board at that time.
The pirates had warned against using force to rescue him, and had reportedly demanded two million dollars in ransom for Phillips' safe return.
Phillips had been held aboard the lifeboat since the pirates attacked his cargo ship, the US-flagged Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday.
The unarmed American crew managed to regain control of the ship, but the pirates captured Phillips and bundled him into the lifeboat as they escaped.
"I'm elated. I can't believe that he's actually safe. And he's a hero, there's no question about that," Stephen Herrera, a neighbor of Phillips in his Vermont hometown of Underhill, told CNN.
Joseph Murphy, father of the Maersk Alabama's second mate Shane Murphy, said in a statement that he "would like at this moment to send my warm regards to the Phillips family.
"Our prayers have been answered on this Easter Sunday. I have made it clear throughout this terrible ordeal that my son and my family will be indebted to Mr. Phillips for his bravery.
"If not for his sacrifice this kidnapping and act of terror could have ended up much worse."
The 20-crew ship had been bound for Mombasa, Kenya, carrying provisions for the UN World Food Programme, including 4,097 tonnes of soya and maize and 990 tonnes of cooking oil for vulnerable populations in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya, an official from the agency told AFP.
It docked safely in the port Saturday and its crew remain onboard while the FBI investigates Wednesday's attack.
BTW -- Historic Ogle family links with pirates. Word.