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Captain jumps overboard, SEALs shoot pirates, official says
The American captain of a cargo ship held hostage by pirates jumped overboard from the lifeboat where he was being held, and U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed three of his four captors, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation.
Capt. Richard Phillips was helped out of the water off the Somali coast and is uninjured and in good condition, the official said. He was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.
At the time of the shootings, the fourth pirate was aboard the Bainbridge negotiating with officials, the source said. That pirate was taken into custody.
Maersk Line Limited, owner of the cargo ship that Phillips captained, issued a statement saying it was informed at 1:30 p.m. by the U.S. government that he had been rescued. John Reinhart, president and CEO, called Phillips' wife, Andrea, to tell her the good news.
Crew members from the ship, the Maersk Alabama, were "jubilant" when they received word, the statement says.
"We are all absolutely thrilled to learn that Richard is safe and will be re-united with his family," Reinhart said. "Maersk Line Limited is deeply grateful to the Navy, the FBI and so many others for their tireless efforts to secure Richard's freedom."
"We look forward to welcoming him home in the coming days," Reinhart added.
Earlier Sunday, Maersk said the U.S. Navy had informed the company that it had sighted Phillips in the lifeboat where the pirates were holding him.
A man who answered the door at Phillips' home in Underhill, Vermont, on Sunday afternoon told CNN's Stephanie Elam that the family had known the news for hours. He said details would have to come from Virginia, apparently referring to Maersk's home base in Norfolk.
On Saturday, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the hijacking of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, two law enforcement officials told CNN. The probe will be led by the FBI's New York field office, which is responsible for looking into cases involving U.S. citizens in the African region, the officials said.
Snippets of information started to emerge Saturday about how the Maersk Alabama's crew managed to retake the ship after it was hijacked by pirates Wednesday about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
The Alabama reached port in Mombasa, Kenya,on Saturday. Crew members aboard the freed cargo ship described how some of their colleagues attempted to "jump" their pirate captors.
A scuffle ensued and one of the sailors stabbed a pirate in the hand in the battle to retake the container ship, one of the sailors told CNN.
Crew members smiled broadly as they stood on the ship's deck under the watchful eyes of security teams. Although the crew was kept away from the media, CNN's Stan Grant got close enough to ask crew members what happened after the pirates climbed aboard the ship.
One crew member said he recalled being awakened around 7 a.m. as the hijacking began.
"I was scared," Grant quoted the man as saying.
Some of the crew managed to hide in a secure part of the Alabama as the pirates stormed the ship, the sailor said.
As the sailors described their clash with the pirates, a crew member pointed to one shipmate and said, "This guy is a hero. He and the chief engineer, they took down the pirate. ... He led him down there to the engine room and then they jumped him."
The shipmate added that he stabbed the pirate's hand and tied him up.
"Capt. Phillips is a hero," another crew member shouted from the deck of the freed ship.
An earlier attempt by Phillips to escape from the 28-foot covered lifeboat was thwarted by a pirate, who dove into the Indian Ocean after him. Phillips' captors appear to have tied him up afterward, Pentagon officials said.
Maersk CEO Reinhart told reporters Saturday that the crew will stay on board in Mombasa while the FBI conducts an investigation.