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Barge Captain Freed

Cargo ship captain Richard Phillips was rescued Sunday from Somali pirates, five days after he was taken hostage, Reuters reports.

U.S. Navy snipers shot and killed three Somali pirates who were holding Phillips captive in a lifeboat.

Navy officers judged that Phillips’ life was in danger when snipers aboard a destroyer shot his captors, freeing him and killing three of the four men holding him. The fourth man was taken into custody.

The U.S. Navy commander who gave the order to shoot listed deteriorating weather conditions and negotiation breakdowns as reasons to believe Phillips was endangered, saying that they were “pointing AK-47’s at the captain.”

According to CNN, this is the first time in modern history that the United States has a pirate who carried out an attack on an American citizen in custody. Figuring out what to do with the pirate is a sensitive issue.

Adm. Rick Gurnon, head of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where Phillips trained, said he wasn’t really worried for him.

"I actually was more concerned for his family," Gurnon said. "As a captain in sea, in a lifeboat, he was comfortable -- even if he was sharing it with Somali pirates."