Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story, including in today's print edition of The Washington Post, incorrectly identified as Army Rangers the U.S. soldiers who were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu during a failed U.S. intervention in the 1990s.
Page 2 of 3   <       >

'3 Rounds, 3 Dead Bodies'

Video
The wife of sea Capt. Richard Phillips says her husband praised the military for rescuing him and called them the 'real heroes' of his ordeal. Video by AP

The USS Bainbridge had by then steamed more than 300 miles to arrive on the scene. Aided by FBI agents, the ship's officers communicated with the pirates by radio, eventually persuading them to allow a boat with provisions to approach.

Sometime Thursday, a desperate Phillips jumped from the lifeboat in an attempt to swim to the USS Bainbridge, only to be hauled back on board after the pirates opened fire. From then on, Phillips was tied up.

One pirate radioed the Navy destroyer and demanded to know how far they were from the sanctuary of Somalia's coast.

"Very far," came the reply from the Bainbridge.

"Thank you," the pirate negotiator responded, according to a U.S. military timeline, his politeness masking menace. "If we cannot [reach the] Somali coast, we will kill the infidel."

According to Somali elders and a pirate in the coastal fishing village of Harardhere, the pirates were demanding $6 million in ransom and safe passage to shore in exchange for Phillips's release.

But the negotiations collapsed Friday over whether the pirates would be arrested, the local elders said.

In Washington that Friday evening, Obama received two national security briefings on the situation. Based on those reports, the White House said, the president gave "the Department of Defense policy guidance and certain authorities to allow U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that the Defense Department twice requested the authority to use deadly force because two groups of Special Operations Forces were involved in the operation. Each required its own sanction. He said that "the approval was given virtually immediately in both cases."

A senior administration official said that the president did not deny any operational request made to him and that he knew the broad outlines of the operation that the Navy had planned. The official said that "our people tried a variety of ways to resolve the situation peacefully, and the guidance all along was that the overriding interest was the captain's life."

Gates said the four pirates involved in taking Phillips hostage were 17 to 19 years old -- "untrained teenagers with heavy weapons." The pirate whom Reza wounded in the hand asked the USS Bainbridge for medical attention, effectively surrendering.

On Saturday evening dozens of Navy SEALs parachuted from C-17 transport aircraft into the sea, making their way with inflatable Zodiacs to the Bainbridge.


<       2        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company