Breaking: Phillips Freed (Updated)
The BBC is reporting that Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama who has been held for several days by Somali pirates, has been freed:
The captain of a US container ship taken hostage by Somali pirates has been released, the US Navy has said.
According to initial reports, three pirates were killed in the operation to free Captain Richard Phillips. Another is in custody.
Capt Phillips is said to be unhurt and on the USS Bainbridge, a warship sent to track the pirates holding him.
He was taken hostage last Wednesday after pirates briefly hijacked his ship, the Maersk Alabama.
Media reports say Capt Phillips’ family was informed of his release several hours ago.
Somali elders had been trying to resolve the standoff but most recent reports suggested the talks had stalled.
The Wall Street Journal offers little more detail:
The kidnapped captain of the Maersk Alabama has been rescued ans is safe aboard a U.S. Navy ship, U.S. officials said.
Official said three pirates who had been holding Capt. Richard Phillips hostage had been killed in the rescue and one pirate was in custody. The Navy planned to hold a briefing on the rescue operation shortly.
As soon as I can find an official statement, I’ll link to it.
The Associated Press now has a little bit more:
MOMBASA, Kenya — An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday in a swift firefight that killed three of the four Somali pirates who had been holding him for days in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa, the ship’s owner said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Capt. Richard Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat was in custody.
Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was safely transported to a Navy warship nearby.
Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart said in a news release that the U.S. government informed the company around 1:30 p.m. EDT Sunday that Phillips had been rescued. Reinhart said the company called Phillips’ wife, Andrea, to tell her the news.
The U.S. official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.
When Phillips’ crew heard the news aboard their ship in the port of Mombasa, they placed an American flag over the rail of the top of the Maersk Alabama and whistled and pumped their fists in the air. Crew fired a bright red flare into the sky from the ship.
Alethos aneste. Quite an Easter present for the Phillips family.
Here’s the statement from the Maersk Line, owners of the Maersk Alabama:
Norfolk, Va., April 12, 2009: Maersk Line, Limited was informed by the U.S. government at 1330 EDT today that Captain Richard Phillips has been rescued. John Reinhart, President and Chief Executive Officer of Maersk Line, Limited, called Captain Phillips’ wife, Andrea, to tell her the good news. The crew of the Maersk Alabama was jubilant when they received word.
Mr. Reinhart said, “We are all absolutely thrilled to learn that Richard is safe and will be re-united with his family. Maersk Line, Limited is deeply grateful to the Navy, the F.B.I. and so many others for their tireless efforts to secure Richard’s freedom. We join Richard’s family, his crew and his colleagues ashore in celebrating this wonderful news. We look forward to welcoming him home in the coming days.”
Mr. Reinhart will hold a media briefing in Norfolk, Va., later on Sunday. Details will follow.
Greyhawk has links to more details including the official statement from CENTCOM and a video of a telephone statement from Vice Admiral William Gortney about the rescue. It’s being reported that President Obama specifically authorized the rescue:
President Obama twice authorized the military to rescue a U.S. captain held by Somali pirates and whose life appeared to be at risk.
A senior administration official told FOX News that Obama granted the authority on Friday and Saturday to use appropriate force to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips from a lifeboat off the Somali coast. The Pentagon believed Phillips’ life was at risk both times, officials said.
A senior administration official said the president’s order authorized force for a group of military assets that arrived at the scene late last week. When more resources arrived, Obama added them to a roster of military personnel allowed to engage militarily with the Somali pirates.
It’s also being reported that three of the pirates were killed (by single shots) and that the fourth who surrendered is being remanded over to the FBI for trial. The FBI is treating the Maersk Alabama as a crime scene.