Moving Targets On The High Seas

Did Anybody Call Casey Ryback?

Navy SEALs have rescued an American captain held hostage by pirates. Its like something straight out of a 1990s Steven Seagal movie, but there you go.

NAIROBI, Kenya – In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain being held at gunpoint. The operation was a victory for the world\’s most powerful military but one that is unlikely to quell the scourge of piracy off the African coast.

Angry pirates vowed Monday to retaliate for the deaths of their colleagues, raising fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off lawless Somalia.

News of the rescue caused the captain’s crew in Kenya to break into wild cheers, and brought tears to the eyes of those in Capt. Richard Phillips’ hometown in Vermont, half a world away from the high-seas drama.

President Barack Obama called Phillips’ courage “a model for all Americans\” and said he was pleased about the rescue, but added that the United States needs help from other countries to deal with the threat of piracy and to hold pirates accountable.

The stunning resolution to a five-day standoff came in a daring nighttime assault in choppy seas Sunday after a pirate on an enclosed lifeboat held an AK-47 assault rifle to the back of Phillips, a 53-year-old freight captain.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said Phillips was tied up and in “imminent danger” of being killed when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge made the split-second decision to order his men to shoot. Gortney said Navy snipers took aim at the pirates’ heads and shoulders.

Gortney said the lifeboat was about 25-30 yards (meters) away and was being towed by the Bainbridge at the time. Pirates had agreed to let the warship tow the powerless lifeboat out of rough water.

A fourth pirate surrendered after boarding the Bainbridge earlier in the day and could face life in a U.S. prison. He had been seeking medical attention for a wound to his hand and was negotiating with U.S. officials on conditions for Phillips’ release, military officials said. The wound may be from an ice pick that a crew member drove into one pirate’s hand after the pirates boarded the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama on Wednesday.

The fight put up by the Alabama crew left the pirates with just one hostage on a small lifeboat, putting them in an exceptionally vulnerable position. Prior to this attack, Somali pirates had become used to no resistance once they boarded a ship and negotiations that yielded million-dollar ransoms.

Yet Sunday’s blow to their lucrative activities is unlikely to do much to quell the growing pirate threat that has transformed one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into one of its most dangerous. It also risked provoking retaliatory attacks.

“This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

The American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault.

“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, told The Associated Press. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

I dunno. Don’t these pirates watch American movies on their pirated DVDs and stuff? You’d think that they’d know by now that the Americans are very well equipped to do certain kinds of things. Send in the clowns, send in the seals. These Navy SEALs dudes have probably been waiting all their lives to do this stuff. Good on them I say.

I love the lame threat at the end. Sure they’ll retailiate. Of course! God knows how, being pirates based out of Somalia, but we know they’ll do *something*. The cycle of violence demands that they do, but somehow I think the Americans are really keen to take on pirates on open seas  rather than the jihadists ducking in and out of caves in Afghanistan. They’re easier pickings.

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