U.S. Navy Seals (the Service’s highly trained commando unit) have ended the five-day old hostage crisis, which began with the attempt by Somali pirates to hijack the 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama several hundred miles off Somalia in the Indian Ocean [See IJ web site – https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2009/04/10/99514.htm]
An American, the ship’s Captain Richard Phillips, had been held in a lifeboat by four pirates since Wednesday, April 8. When ongoing negotiations (and a failed attempt by Capt. Phillips to escape) produced no solution, Navy warships tightened their surveillance of the lifeboat, which was drifting without power towards the coast of Somalia.
According to news reports, observers saw Capt. Phillips being threatened with a firearm, and believed immediate action was necessary. Acting with the approval of President Obama, Navy sharpshooters opened fire, killing three pirates and freeing Phillips. The fourth pirate, who was on a navy ship at the time, surrendered.
After freeing Capt. Phillips, navy personnel took him to the USS Bainbridge, the first U.S. Navy ship to arrive on the scene, after the attempted hijacking. He was later transferred to the USS Boxer for a medical examination. Phillips was reported to be in good shape, despite his ordeal.
A number of commentators have expressed concerns that the use of force to free Capt. Phillips may lead to more violence in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, as would be hijackers might be inclined to shoot hostages at the slightest provocation.
Around 270 hostages are believed to be in the hands of pirates, who are negotiating their ransom. Despite the rash of pirate attacks in the region, there has been relatively little loss of life.
However, western governments appear to be taking a more muscular approach in dealing with the pirates. Over the weekend a French special forces unit, recaptured a yacht hijacked off the coast of Somalia earlier in the week. Two pirates were killed and three others were taken prisoner, but the owner of the yacht also died in the rescue operation (See following article].
Source: news reports
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