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Navy Kills 3 Pirates, Rescues Ship Captain off Somalia's Coast

Navy snipers on the fantail of a destroyer shot and killed three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescued an American sea captain in a surprise nighttime assault on Easter Sunday, ending a five-day standoff. Video by AP

"We simply do not have enough resources to cover all of those areas," Gortney said.

Pirates are holding more than a dozen ships and more than 200 hostages.

Obama said in a statement Sunday that the United States is resolved to halt the rise of piracy in the region.

"To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes," Obama said.

The pirates had apparently been tracking the Maersk Alabama for days and boarded it Wednesday, tossing ropes with grappling hooks over the side. The details of what happened next are sketchy, but after a five-hour ordeal in which some crew members forced one pirate into the engine room and tied him up, the crew persuaded the pirates to leave the ship using its lifeboat.

On Sunday night, one of the crew members said Phillips had gone with the pirates as a good-faith gesture. But the pirates did not follow through on their promise to let him go, and his ordeal began.

On Saturday afternoon, two U.S. helicopters buzzed over the pirate stronghold of Harardhere on the Somali coast, residents said. One helicopter landed for about 10 minutes, bewildering locals and scattering herds of goats and cows.

"I have no idea what is happening," said Laila Arale, a local farmer who sent her sons to sleep elsewhere Sunday night, fearing that the United States might attack Somalia from the air. "I'm scared."

The Bainbridge had offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters as the seas grew rougher, and the pirates, seeming worn down, agreed, said military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One pirate with a hand injury effectively gave himself up.

Phillips was by then tied up, having been bound and occasionally beaten by pirates after he tried to escape by jumping off the boat.

The rescue occurred at 7:19 p.m. local time Sunday, the Navy said, and involved dozens of SEALs. With one of the pirates pointing an AK-47 straight at Phillips's back, an on-scene commander gave the SEAL snipers authority to fire.

John Reinhart, president and chief executive of Maersk Line, the ship's owner, spoke with Phillips by phone. Reinhart quoted Phillips as saying that "the real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home."

"It's a great day for all of us," Reinhart said at a news conference in Norfolk, Va. "It is truly, truly a wonderful moment."

Scott Tyson reported from Washington. Special correspondent Mohamed Ibrahim in Nairobi contributed to this report.

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