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Navy SEALs Rescue Captain Phillips From Pirate Captors

On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, US Special Operations Forces, included SEAL Team 6, staged a dramatic rescue of a US Captain of cargo ship who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates.


Days before the SEAL intervention, pirates had raided the the US-flagged cargo ship, Maersk Alabama as it passed through the Gulf Of Aden. In a heroic move, Capt. Richard Phillips had surrendered himself as a hostage to the pirates in return for the release of his crew and ship. Phillips and 4 captors later boarded one of the ship's lifeboats. A tense standoff later ensued as US Naval forces, including the USS Bainbridge,a destroyer, closed on the lifeboat. Strained negotiations took place between the NAvy and the pirates. Eventually, as the seas grew rougher, the pirates agreed to be taken in tow by the Bainbridge, ostensibly so that they could towed to calmer waters, closer to Somalia.

Navy SEAL Rescue

It's been reported that at least a dozen DEVGRU operators, SWCCs and their NSW RHIB boats parachuted into the ocean from a US aircraft before moving to the USS Bainbridge, which became their base of operations.

Footage of DEVGRU and other elements performing a free-fall parachute insertion over the Indian Ocean ahead of their dramatic rescue of Captain Phillips.

A number of SEAL snipers set up on the Bainbridge's fantail. The SEALs had specific Rules Of Engagement that allowed them to take action only if it was believed that Capt. Phillips life was in immediate danger.

The chances of a successfully rescue increased when one of the 4 pirates requested permission to come aboard the US destroyer, effectively giving himself up.

As time dragged on, and with the remaining 3 pirates showing signs of irritation and desperation, an opportunity presented itself. 2 pirates were observed sticking their heads out of the hatches of the enclosed life boat while a 3rd pointed an AK-47 at Capt. Phillips head. At this, the on-site SEAL commander gave the order to fire. Despite the fact that the lifeboat, on a tow rope of around 70 feet, and the Bainbridge itself, were both moving from the ocean swells, within seconds, all 3 pirates were dead, killed by precision shots from the SEAL snipers.

SEALs aboard NSW RHIBs then sped up to the lifeboat to secure Capt Phillips, who was soon after taken to the American ship for treatment.

pirate-held lifeboat
Image of the Pirate-held lifeboat as taken from a Scan Eagle UAV. The captured lifeboat was kept under constant surveillance throughout the incident.
photo : US Navy

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