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Pirates Holding Phillips Fire on U.S. Navy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Pirates Holding Phillips Fire on U.S. Navy

Capt. Richard Phillips Capt. Richard Phillips
Laura Wells Laura Wells

Mombasa, Kenya - April 11, 2009

The crew of the Maersk Alabama is now safe in Kenya, but they are without their captain.

"We have a man who's dying on a lifeboat so we can live," shouted one distraught crewman to reporters.

For four days now, Capt. Phillips has been held hostage on a drifting lifeboat by Somali pirates.

Early Saturday, the pirates fired at a small Navy vessel that approached the lifeboat. The Navy pulled back after determining Capt. Phillips was still alive.

The crew of the Alabama spoke to reporters just after docking in a Kenyan port Saturday.

They described what happened when armed pirates took over their ship.

They stabbed one pirate in the hand and tied him up.

They are calling their captain a hero. Phillips surrendered to the pirates to safeguard his crew, who will soon head home.

"Everybody was trying very, very hard to hide everything, but you could tell, you know, by talking to them that they were really still missing their captain," said Bernard Odemba, of the Mombasa Port Authority.

FBI agents based here in New York have joined the investigation to help determine how Phillips was taken hostage. The pirates could face federal charges if they're captured in international waters.

Two U.S. warships and surveillance aircraft are also keeping watch on the lifeboat; trying to ensure the pirates don't get help from their comrades or make it back to land as the U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with Somalia.

Father Rick Danielson, the pastor of Phillips' church, is praying for his safe return.

"Everybody at St. Thomas and the greater community is concerned. This really hits home," Danielson said.

Piracy in the area has increased in recent years.

In fact early Saturday, Somali pirates captured an American owned, Italian tugboat with 16 crew on board, none of them from the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Underhill community continues show their support for Capt. Phillips and his family.

Yellow ribbons are springing up on mailboxes, telephone poles, and on businesses all around town.

Community members say the ribbons represent solidarity for Phillips' family and their hope that he will return home safe and sound.

Many say they are glued to their television sets awaiting good news.

"It's hell. It is hell and this is coming from someone who's not close to the family," said Laura Wells of Underhill. "It's a similar reaction to 9/11. It directly affected us and you don't want to miss if there's a resolution. We wait moment by moment to see if he's released."

Phillips has two children who both live in Vermont.

WCAX News

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