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Hostage Captain was in 'Imminent Danger' at Time of Rescue
(Editor&#39;s note: This article is republished from the American Forces Press Service. U.S. Africa Command did not have direct involvement in the rescue operations.) <br /> <br />The captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship held hostage by pirates
USS BAINBRIDGE, At Sea - Captain Richard Phillips, right, master of the cargo ship Maersk-Alabama, who had been captured by pirates, stands alongside U.S. Navy Commander Frank Castellano, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge, after being rescued by U.S Naval Forces off the coast of Somalia April 12, 2009. Philips was held hostage for four days by the pirates. (U.S. Navy photo)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: USS BAINBRIDGE, At Sea - Captain Richard Phillips, right, master of the cargo ship Maersk-Alabama, who had been captured by pirates, stands alongside U.S. Navy Commander Frank Castellano, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge, after being rescued by U.S Naval Forces off the coast of Somalia April 12, 2009. Philips was held hostage for four days by the pirates. (U.S. Navy photo) Download full-resolution version
(Editor's note: This article is republished from the American Forces Press Service. U.S. Africa Command did not have direct involvement in the rescue operations.)

The captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia was in "imminent danger" when U.S. military snipers shot and killed his three pirate captors, a U.S. Navy commander said April 12, 2009.

Navy Vice Admiral William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, provided preliminary details of the rescue mission that freed Captain Richard Phillips today during a news conference.

Off the Somali coast, U.S. special operations snipers held positions at the rear of the USS Bainbridge, which was towing an 18-foot lifeboat that held Phillips and three pirates some 25-30 meters away.

"The snipers positioned on the fantail of the Bainbridge observed one of the pirates in the pilot house -- and two pirates with their head and shoulders exposed -- and one of the pirates had the AK47 (assault rifle) leveled at the captain's back," Gortney said.

Gortney said the White House had given military operators "very clear guidance and authority" if Phillips' life was in danger.

"The on-scene commander took it as the captain was in imminent danger and then made that decision (to shoot), and he had the authorities to make that decision, and he had seconds to make that decision," he said.

On the marksmanship of the snipers Gortney said, "We pay a lot for their training and we got a good return on our investment."

Naval forces rescued Phillips on a rigid-inflatable boat and transferred him to the USS Bainbridge before being flown to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, where he contacted his family, received a routine medical evaluation, and is resting comfortably, according to a U.S. Navy statement.

Gortney said Phillips was in good health and suffered no apparent injuries, despite being "tied up inside the lifeboat" for at least part of his five days as a hostage. He noted that a fourth pirate surrendered and is being held in U.S. forces' custody.

The admiral praised the military service members involved in the rescue.

"I could not be more proud to represent all the men and women in uniform who worked tirelessly to make this rescue possible," he said.
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