Somali Pirates Are Vowing to Retaliate for the Deaths of Three Fellow Pirates at the Hands of U.S. Navy Snipers
The light wasn't good as the murky evening darkness was descending on the Indian Ocean. The sea was rolling, making the targets bob around like corks as well as giving the shooters an unsteady platform. A miss could be disastrous.
But the trio of Navy Seals who had been secretly dropped into the sea over the weekend and taken aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Bainbridge, were steely. They strapped on night vision goggles and zeroed in their targets, three pirates on a red lifeboat floating on the rough seas, including one pirate who was pointing an AK-47at the back of Capt. Richard Phillips.
When the command to fire was given, three shots rang out and the five-day long standoff was over. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said today that each sniper, who he described as "extremely, extremely well-trained," fired only one shot.
Cheers erupted around the world: on the Bainbridge in the Indian Ocean, on Phillips' ship the Maersk Alabama in the port of Mombasa, Kenya, and loudest of all in Phillips' hometown of Underhill, Vt., where cars honked their horns in celebration.
President Obama began a news conference on transportation funding today by saying how "very proud" he was of the job carried out by the military.
"I want to take a moment to say how pleased I am about the rescue of Capt. Phillips and his safe return... I had a chance to talk to his wife yesterday. And as she put it, she couldn't imagine a better Easter than seeing his safe return," the president said.
Film of Phllips, 53, on board the Bainbridge showed him smiling while being greeted by sailors and telling them, "Thank you very much."
A neighbor of the Phillips said that the captain called his wife, Andrea. "She was laughing... his trademark sense of humor is still very much intact and he's in great spirits," the neighbor said.
Mrs. Phillips is expected to issue a statement at 4 p.m.
As Americans celebrated, however, pirates along Somalia's coast simmered with anger and vowed revenge against U.S. and French sailors. French commandos killed two pirates in a rescue operation last week that also killed one of the pirates' hostages.
"From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)," Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl. "(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy." "Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The AP today. "We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men."
Gortney conceded on Sunday that the U.S. actions could have raised the stakes for ships in pirate-infested waters.
"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," Gortney said.