WASHINGTON, April 13 (UPI) — U.S. Navy warships supported by helicopter gunships tracked four Somali pirates and their American captive in the Horn of Africa throughout the weekend as American negotiators tried to obtain the release of the hostage. Reports from the region indicated that negotiations had broken down, and on Easter Sunday Navy snipers killed three of the pirates and freed the American, Capt. Richard Phillips, master of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama.
Phillips gave himself up to the pirates Wednesday as they climbed aboard his vessel using hooks and ropes and fired their guns in the air as a warning sign that they meant business.
Phillips ordered his men to lock themselves in a cabin and allowed the pirates to take him hostage in order to save his crew. U.S. Navy SEALs arrived later on the scene and escorted the rest of the crew, 19 American sailors, to safer waters in Kenya’s port of Mombasa.
The area off Somalia’s coast is one of the world’s busiest waterways and one of the most dangerous to international shipping. This past weekend alone, two other European ships came under attack from pirates.
French naval forces intervened Friday to free a sailboat and liberate hostages captured by Somali pirates, but one of the hostages was killed in the crossfire.