American Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held hostage since Wednesday by Somali pirates, was rescued Sunday after U.S. Navy snipers shot and killed three of his captors.
The snipers fired after noticing that a pirate “had an AK-47 leveled at the captain’s back,” Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters. Officials then sailed to the lifeboat where Phillips had been held and rescued him.
“The captain is in good health. He’s showered up and in a clean set of clothes,” Gortney said.
Last week, while aboard the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, which was set to deliver food aid to Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia, pirates hijacked the vessel in the Indian Ocean.
In what many consider a heroic move, Phillips told his crew members to hide inside a cabin and surrendered himself to the pirates. The pirates then took him to the lifeboat, which was soon under U.S. surveillance, reports the BBC. Phillips tried to escape Thursday night by jumping off of the boat but was recaptured. Negotiations to peacefully free him on Saturday were unsuccessful, according to the Navy.
President Barack Obama called Phillips a “model for all Americans” and promised to address the issue of piracy.
“His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew. We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region,” Obama said in a statement.