Navy Made 'Split-Second' Call to Fire on Pirates

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2009 6:17 PM CDT
This photo shows a 28-foot lifeboat from the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama on Thursday, April 9, 2009 in the Indian Ocean.   (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
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(Newser) – Navy Seals opened fire on three Somali pirates today when a naval commander made a split-second decision that Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger, the New York Times reports. Authorized by President Obama to use force, snipers shot two pirates who had stuck their heads out of the lifeboat's rear hatch, and killed a third through a window in the bow. The destroyer Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat when snipers opened fire.

Navy Seals slid down ropes to the lifeboat and found Phillips tied up on board. Phillips boarded the Bainbridge for a medical exam, which showed he was in pretty good shape after 4 days held by pirates. He called home and transferred to another ship pending his flight home to Vermont. Obama hailed Phillips' release, but vowed to draw a hard line on pirates. "We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region," Obama said.