The operation to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips involved dozens of Navy SEALs, who parachuted from an aircraft into the scene near dark Saturday, landing in the ocean. The SEALs were part of a group of Special Operations forces involved in the effort, according to military officials. …
At one point Saturday, the pirates opened fire on one of the smaller U.S. Navy craft that approached.
As the seas grew rougher, the Bainbridge offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters, and the pirates agreed, linking up the lifeboat to the destroyer with a towing cable that left 75 to 80 feet between the two vessels. Phillips at the time was tied up in the lifeboat, having been bound — and occasionally beaten — by the pirates ever since he had attempted to escape by jumping into the water on Friday, the officials said.
Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. …
Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. The Navy then allowed that pirate to speak with the others in hopes that he could persuade them to give up.
The three other pirates, however, showed signs of growing irritation, as the Bainbridge, 18 miles from shore, towed the lifeboat further out to sea. …
“In the last discussion, they said, ‘If we don’t get what we want, we will kill the captain,’ ” the official said.
Soon afterward, two pirates moved to one of the hatches of the lifeboat and stuck their heads out. The third pirate advanced toward the captain and pointed his AK-47 straight at Phillips’s back, the rifle touching it or inches away, the official said.
U.S. military observers thought that Phillips was about to be shot. SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.
“As soon as the snipers had a clear shot at the guy who had the rifle, they shot him and the other two in the hatches,” the senior military official said.
CNN 2:14 video
Even from the fantail of a destroyer rising and falling with the waves, 75-80′ (22.9-24.4 m.) shot with telescopic sight-equipped sniper rifles chambered in 7.62mm or .300 Winchester Magnum would be virtually unmissable. Those Navy snipers were shooting fish in a barrel.
It just doesn’t work to wave guns around, threatening a hostage, while trained marksmen have drawn a bead on your cranium.
All this shows that the pirates were more than a little naive, having evidently bought into an international image of a United States paralysed by moral inhibitions that proved to be exaggerated. The Obama administration does deserve credit for refraining from finding some advanced European interpretation of International Law declaring pirates to be a specially protected category of persons.
1:21 Seal sniper video