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US captain freed; pirates vow tit-for-tat action

[ 2009-04-14 16:02]     字号 [] [] []  
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In a daring high-seas rescue, US Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew. The operation was a victory for the world's most powerful military, but angry pirates vowed yesterday to retaliate.

Those threats raised fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off the coast of lawless Somalia.

"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, said from one of Somalia's piracy hubs. "(US forces have) become our No 1 enemy."

News of Captain Richard Phillips' rescue caused his crew in Kenya to break into wild cheers and brought tears to the eyes of those in Phillips' hometown of Underhill, Vermont, half a world away from the Indian Ocean drama.

President Barack Obama called Phillips' courage "a model for all Americans" and said he was pleased with the rescue, but added the United States still needed help from other countries to deal with piracy and to hold pirates accountable.

The stunning resolution to a five-day standoff came on Sunday in a daring nighttime assault in choppy seas. Pirates had agreed to let the USS Bainbridge tow their powerless lifeboat out of rough water.

Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said Phillips, 53, was tied up and in "imminent danger" of being killed because a pirate on the lifeboat held an AK-47 assault rifle to the back of his head.

At that, the commander of Bainbridge made the split-second decision to order Navy snipers to shoot at the lifeboat, about 25-30 meters away, taking aim at the pirates' heads and shoulders.

Phillips was not hurt in several minutes of gunfire and the US Navy's 5th Fleet said he was resting comfortably on a US warship after receiving a medical exam.

Phillips deflected praise. "I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home," Phillips said by phone to Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart.

A fourth pirate surrendered after boarding the Bainbridge earlier in the day and could face life in a US prison. He had been seeking medical attention for a wound to his hand and was negotiating with US officials on conditions for Phillips' release, military officials said.

In a move that surprised the pirates, the US-flagged Maersk Alabama had put up a fight on Wednesday when pirates boarded the ship. Until then, Somali pirates had become used to encountering no resistance once they boarded a ship in search of million-dollar ransoms.

Yet Sunday's blow to their lucrative activities is unlikely to stop pirates from threatening one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, simply because of the size of the vast area stretching from the Gulf of Aden and the coast of Somalia.

In fact, some say it may provoke retaliatory attacks against other hostages.

"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," said Gortney, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command.

A Somali pirate agreed.

"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, said yesterday. "We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men."


1. What is Captain Richard Phillips' hometown?

2. What is the vessel called that helped tow the pirates’ lifeboat out of rough water?

3. When did pirates board the US ship Maersk Alabama?


1. Underhill, Vermont.

2. USS Bainbridge.

3. Wednesday.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

US captain freed; pirates vow tit-for-tat action

About the broadcaster:

US captain freed; pirates vow tit-for-tat action

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.