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The U.S. Navy released a detailed account of how American Captain Richard Phillips was freed from the armed pirates holding him captive for five days.
Navy SEALs on the USS Bainbridge used night-vision scopes to see the three pirates on the lifeboat, which was tethered to the navy destroyer and less than 100 feet away, according to Vice Admiral William Gortney, head of the U.S. Naval Central Command from Bahrain. When two of the pirates stuck their heads and shoulders out of the rear hatch of the covered lifeboat and the third was visible through a window, the Navy marksmen fired, taking the three down with one shot each.
The action was taken because the Navy officers believed Phillips life was in imminent danger because they saw one pirate aiming his AK-47 rifle at the tied up captain. U.S. President Barack Obama had given the Navy the authority to use lethal force if they believed Phillips was in danger from the pirates.
The fourth pirate was onboard the USS Bainbridge. He had gone onboard for medical care for an injury to his hand which had been stabbed by American sailors when the pirates tried to hijack the Maersk Alabama container ship on Wednesday, April 8. The surviving pirate is now in U.S. naval custody and officials will decide whether to put him on trial in the United States or to turn him over to Kenya, which already is jailing several pirates who are awaiting trial there.
The U.S. authorities maintain that they did not discuss ransom demands from the pirates but only spoke to the pirates about releasing Captain Phillips and the pirates' surrender.
By Sunday the pirates on the lifeboat were running out of food and water, and the U.S. provided some provisions by a small boat. When the seas became choppy and because the lifeboat engine had run out of fuel, the pirates agreed to accept a tow from the large destroyer. When darkness fell on Sunday night, the Navy shortened the tow line from 200 feet to 100 feet.