From "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea”
By Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty
Published by Hyperion
Ten days before, I’d been enjoying my last meal stateside with my wife, Andrea, in one of the most beautiful towns in Vermont.
All you see from the front door of my converted farmhouse are rolling green hills, munching cows, and more rolling hills. Underhill is the kind of Vermont town where young farmers propose to their local sweethearts by spray-painting rachel, will you marry me? on bales of hay.
It’s a place where you can walk for three minutes and be lost in a forest so deep and thick and silent you’d think you’re going to trip over Daniel Boone. We have two general stores and one Catholic church, St. Thomas, and the occasional tourist up from Manhattan.
It’s as different from the ocean as the other side of the moon is, and I love that. It’s like I get to live two completely different lives. Read more
Another American cargo ship has been attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The attackers failed to take over the “Liberty Sun" but they did some damage with grenade launchers and automatic weapons. An engineer on the “Liberty Sun" was e-mailing his mom, Katy, during the attack.
He wrote: “We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets… We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. A rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire too but put out.” In a later email, “The Navy has shown up, we’re under military escort. I love you all and thank you for your prayers.”
Katy Urbick spoke with Kiran Chetry on CNN’s American Morning Wednesday.
Kiran Chetry: How much time from the first email to the second? Because the first must have stopped your heart…
Katy Urbik: Yes, I think the way they send out their e-mail signals, some can accumulate and they send them out at the same time. So literally the second e-mail was there as soon as I exited out of the first one. But that doesn't mean they came that quickly. I think it's a matter of when they send the signals up and send out the e-mails.
Chetry: To hear this from your own child. We're under attack, there's bullets. So far, no one is hurt. What was going through your mind?
Urbik: My heart started pounding. I had this "is this really happening" kind of moment. I was waiting for the next line to say “just kidding” or “LOL” or something like that because that's kind of his sense of humor. But it was just one of those hit you between the eye moments of this is reality right smack in my face.
There are new developments today in the waters off of the coast of Somalia. Another U.S. ship, the Liberty Sun, was attacked by pirates. This time, the pirates were unsuccessful.
Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) is the first American member of the government to visit the country in a decade. His plane came under attack as he left Mogadishu earlier this week. Congressman Payne joined Kiran Chetry on CNN’s American Morning on Wednesday.
Kiran Chetry: You witnessed firsthand what a dangerous place and region this is. Why did you go?
Rep. Donald Payne: I've been dealing with that area for the last 20 years. And I had worked during the past two or three years trying to help them form a new government. They had a government I met with three or four times in Nairobi. They were meeting outside of Somalia, called a transitional federal government. They were not strong enough to maintain themselves. There was another group called the I.C.U., the Islamic Courts Union now called the Alliance that then took over a bit. It’s a complicated story but the U.S. suggested that Ethiopia intrude to bring peace, although Ethiopia is hostile to Somalia so that was really the wrong peacekeepers.
Chetry: You said this trip was largely successful. What about being fired on? What happened?
Payne: Well I think there’s certainly a group, the al Shabab, who may be the closest link to al Qaeda. They do not want to see this government work. That's what it's all about. I think the fact that I went there, that there were no problems during the day. We went around to the various places, met with women's groups, the prime minister, the cabinet people. I believe this was desperation. They don't want to see this new two-month government succeed. I assured President Sheikh Sharif that we would want to engage. They have a plan that they feel they can deal with piracy on the ground, on the land, rather than in the sea, which makes it very difficult. So they will be coming up with a plan in a couple of weeks and will submit it to our government and myself.
“Armed security detachments” to protect civilian ships at sea. That’s the recommendation of the admiral in charge of U.S. Naval operations off the coast of Somalia.
Vice Adm. William Gortney, appearing on American Morning today, left little question as to what he thinks shipping companies should do to fend off piracy.
The idea of sailors, or shipboard security personnel carrying weapons is a controversial one. Might it provoke shootouts on the high seas? Would it increase the likelihood that acts of piracy could have deadly consequences?
Adm. Gortney views the issue pragmatically. These companies hire armed security to “protect their property on the beach,” he says, so why not extend that to the oceans?
Yesterday, Navy SEALs fired three shots and took out the three pirates holding an American shipping captain hostage. The Commander of the 5th Fleet, Vice Admiral William Gortney, spoke to CNN's John Roberts on Monday.
John Roberts: Can you walk us through what happened yesterday?
Vice Adm. William Gortney: It was an ongoing hostage negotiation attempt to keep the event at as low a level of violence as possible so that we could ensure the safe return of the captain. The activity had got to the point where the lifeboat was out of fuel. One of their pirates had left the life boat, needed medical attention and jumped on to one of our rigid, inflatable boats, so they were down to one.
They're tired. The sea state was picking up. They'd agreed for us to tow them into some little better waters as the ship was bouncing around. It was very tense. The on-scene commander could see that the three remaining pirates were very, very intense. One of them held his AK-47 in the back of the captain. We were always concerned about the imminent danger to the captain.
And because of the tensions and the imminent danger, at one point... they exposed themselves where there was an opportunity, and because of imminent danger to the captain, the on-scene commander saw that one of the pirates still held that AK-47, was very, very concerned for the captain's life and he ordered the shots to be taken. Three shots were fired and all were fatal. And it was a phenomenal shot, 75 feet away, the small boat was moving up and down a couple two to three feet and it was at night. Just remarkable marksmanship.