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Monday, April 13, 2009

US special forces free Maersk Alabama captain

Mogadishu: US Navy special forces freed a Maersk ship's captain by killing three Somali pirates who held him hostage in a lifeboat, ending a five-day standoff but risking more violent confrontations off the waters of east Africa, Reuters reported this morning.
The life of cargo ship captain Richard Phillips was in danger when Navy snipers aboard a US destroyer shot his Somali captors on Sunday, freeing him unharmed and killing three of four pirates who had held him after trying to seize his vessel, the Navy said. The fourth pirate was in custody.
A Navy commander made a split-second decision to fire on the pirates because he believed that Phillips, who tried to escape on Friday, faced imminent danger amid tense hostage talks with his captors and deteriorating sea conditions.
Experts had expected a quick end to the standoff, but the pirates held out for both a ransom and safe passage home. Friends told Reuters the gang wanted $2 million.
Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, said the rescue would change the stakes in future pirate attacks.
"This is a big wake-up to the pirates. It raises the stakes. Now they may be more violent, like the pirates of old," he said.
So far, pirates have generally treated hostages well, sometimes roasting goat meat for them and even passing phones round so they can call loved ones. The worst violence reported has been the occasional beating. No hostages are known to have been killed by pirates. [13/04/09]