Wife of rescued captain awaits his pirate tale

April 14th, 2009 - 1:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, April 14 (DPA) For five long days, Andrea Phillips waited far from the public eye for news of her husband, who was being held by ruthless pirates two oceans away.
With a daring rescue Sunday through the marksmanship of three Navy Seals, captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama was on the way home from a dangerous adventure on the high seas off East Africa.

By Monday, while Andrea Phillips could finally relax, she could also hardly speak, whether from emotion or laryngitis.

Instead, she sat with her grown children in the town of Burlington, Vermont, near her home, as a statement was read to reporters thanking the US military and President Barack Obama.

The event revealed the image of a captain’s wife fearing for her husband but not too worried to be amused by thoughts of his famous tale-telling when he got home.

Although the “past five days were extremely difficult”, she said there were times when “we smiled when we thought about how Richard would tell the story”.

There are many versions as events unfolded since Wednesday. US military officials kept most details under wraps out of concern for Phillips’ safety.

In the end, a narrative emerged that showed how the crew of the US-operated Alabama, carrying food aid for three countries, rebuffed the attempted hijacking 500 km off the shore of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.

But the price was high. Richard Phillips apparently ordered his crew to lock themselves in their cabins, then offered himself as a peace offering and left the ship with the four Somali pirates in a small, roofed-in lifeboat.

After the destroyer USS Bainbridge rushed to the scene, the Alabama was sent on its way to port in Mombasa, Kenya, with the crew feeling horrible about leaving their captain behind, according to the father of first mate Sean Murphy.

Thus began the four-day standoff between the Bainbridge, two other naval vessels and the tiny lifeboat. The pirates demanded millions in ransom, while the US apparently refused to negotiate.

On Friday, Phillips jumped off the lifeboat but was hauled back by the pirates under a hail of their own bullets.

Finally Sunday, one of the kidnappers sought medical aid on the Bainbridge for a hand wound suffered in the failed hijacking attempt.

In an image straight from Hollywood, Navy Seals had already parachuted onto the scene from a fixed-wing aircraft and taken up station on the fantail of the destroyer, The New York Times reported.

The situation was desperate. Obama had authorised force if Phillips’ life was in imminent danger, and Sunday, as two pirates stuck their heads out of the hatch of the lifeboat while a third pointed an AK-47 at the back of a bound Phillips, that moment came.

With simultaneous shots, three Navy Seals cut down all three targets and ended the standoff.

The captain has not yet commented in public. Obama only spoke about the hostage situation when it was over, in an effort to avoid “upping the ante” and giving the pirates “too much recognition”, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday.

“We’re all looking forward to Richard’s return when the family will get a chance to tell their stories together,” Andrea Phillips said. “With Richard saved, you all just gave me the best Easter ever.”

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