Pauline JelineK associated Press Writer NAIROBI, Kenya
Bracing themselves on a rolling warship in choppy seas, U.S. Navy snipers fired three flawless shots to kill a trio of Somali pirates and free the American sea captain being held at gunpoint, a Navy commander said Monday. Angry pirates vowed retaliation for the deaths, raising fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off the coast of lawless Somalia. "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)," Jamac Habeb, a 30-yearold pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl. "(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy." The nighttime operation was a victory for the world's most powerful military, but few experts believed it would quell a rising tide of attacks in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Interviewed from Bahrain, U. S. Naval Forces Central Command chief Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said the takedown happened shortly after the hostagetakers were observed by sailors aboard the USS Bainbridge "with their heads and shoulders exposed." U. S. Defense officials said snipers got the go-ahead to fire after one pirate held an AK-47 so close to Capt. Richard Phillips' back that the weapon appeared to be touching him. Two other pirates popped their heads up, giving snipers three clear targets, one official said.