The Los Angeles Times reports, "After days of tense negotiations, the U.S. Navy rescued an American sea captain in seconds Sunday, with snipers shooting three Somali pirates who officials feared were about to kill him. The commanding officer of the U.S. guided missile destroyer Bainbridge had received approval from President Obama to attempt a rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips by force if his life appeared to be in imminent danger after five days of captivity off the coast of Somalia." http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-captain-freed13-2009apr13,0,31188.story
Per NBC's Mike Viqueira, Obama gave the go-ahead both Friday and Saturday -- two different occasions. The Defense Department had asked for authority to use appropriate force, and the president granted both Friday and Saturday. Why twice? They were two different operational groups.
The Washington Post: "For President Obama, last week's confrontation with Somali pirates posed similar political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public. But the result -- a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces -- left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad."
Phillips directed credit to the Navy. 'I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home,' Phillips said in a phone call to John Reinhart, president and CEO of Maersk Line Ltd., according to the Maersk executive."
"Two of the captors had poked their heads out of a rear hatch of the lifeboat, exposing themselves to clear shots, and the third could be seen through a window in the bow, pointing an automatic rifle at the captain, who was tied up inside the 18-foot lifeboat," the New York Times adds. It took only three remarkable shots -- one each by snipers firing from a distance at dusk, using night-vision scopes, the officials said. Within minutes, rescuers slid down ropes from the Bainbridge, climbed aboard the lifeboat and found the three pirates dead. They then untied Captain Phillips, ending the contretemps at sea that had riveted much of the world's attention. A fourth pirate had surrendered earlier."
Obama released this statement yesterday afternoon: "I am very pleased that Captain Phillips has been rescued and is safely on board the USS Boxer. His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew. I am also very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies who worked tirelessly to secure Captain Phillips's safe recovery."
"We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region. To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes. I share the country's admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans."
Meanwhile, "Somali pirates today vowed to retaliate for the deaths of three colleagues who were shot dead by US Navy snipers hours before in a daring nighttime assault that freed a 53-year-old American captain," the AP says.
Now the question is what to do with the fourth pirate the U.S. captured. "The Justice Department was considering whether to prosecute a Somali pirate in Washington or New York, U.S. officials said following the rescue of a U.S. hostage and the apprehension of his only surviving captor." It would be "the first U.S. piracy case in recent memory… [P]rosecutors were also considering taking the pirate to Kenya, where the military has an agreement under which captured pirates will be tried. But that agreement has never been used following an attack on a U.S. ship."