Meanwhile, Navy Seals were flown in by fixed-wing aircraft. They parachuted into the sea with inflatable boats and were picked up by the Bainbridge. On Sunday, the pirates, their fuel exhausted, were drifting toward the Somali coast. They agreed to accept a tow from the Bainbridge, the senior officials said. At first, the towline was 200 feet long, but as darkness gathered late on Sunday and seas became rough, the tow line was shortened to 100 feet, the officials said. It was unclear if this was done with the pirates’ knowledge.
At dusk, a single tracer bullet was seen fired from the lifeboat. The intent was unclear, but it ratcheted up the tension and Seal snipers at the stern rail of the Bainbridge fixed night-vision scopes to their high-powered rifles, getting ready for action.
What they saw was the head and shoulders of two of the pirates emerging from the rear hatch of the lifeboat. Through the window of the front hatch they saw the third pirate, pointing his AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, who was seen to be tied up.
That was it: the provocation that fulfilled the president’s order to act only if the captain’s life was in imminent danger, and the opportunity of having clear shots at each of the captors. The order was given. Senior defense officials, themselves marveling at the skill of the snipers, said each took a target and fired one shot.
Probably the perfect script for the next Call of Duty game special mission.
(taken from NY Times)