McClatchy: Pirates were out of ammo, wanted to trade captain for freedom

In which McClatchy takes dictation from pirate cronies eager to salvage a propaganda victory from a defeat at sea. A reader sends this along with word that Hannity’s touting the story on his radio show, which, given the sourcing, is … unfortunate if true. Can anyone confirm or deny?

Vice Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, in a briefing for reporters, said U.S. Navy SEAL snipers perched at the back of the USS Bainbridge — a guided-missile destroyer floating about 30 yards off the 28-foot lifeboat where Phillips was being held — opened fire on the pirates when one of them pointed an AK-47 rifle at Phillips’s back…

According to Somalis with knowledge of the discussions, the pirates, who at one time had demanded $2 million for Phillips’s release, had grown desperate with their situation — adrift under a searing sun in waters infested with sharks, staring at two massive Navy ships armed with guided missiles, running low on fuel and having spent their ammunition.

A relative of one of the pirates, who said he spoke with the men by satellite phone at about 3 p.m. — four hours before the Navy opened fire — said they “were getting scared” and trying to persuade the Americans to let them go in return for the captain’s release.

“They were trying to save their own lives,” said the relative, Hassan Mohammed Farah, speaking by phone from Haradheere, a coastal town in central Somalia where pirates are known to operate. “The only thing they could bargain with was the captain, but the Americans would not accept.”

The idea here, I take it, is to make it look like they were shot in cold blood more or less in the process of surrendering, either as the Navy’s way of sending a message to other pirates in the area or on orders from The One to give him some tough-guy cred. Does anyone believe that, though, given the risk that one of the snipers might miss and accidentally blow the captain’s head off? Follow the link and read down a bit and you’ll see that a French attempt last week to rescue hostages from pirates ended with one of them being killed in the crossfire. Even if the pirates were out of ammo, the Navy had no way of confirming that or of knowing what other weapons they might have been armed with. The pirates could have just as easily pulled a knife and slit the captain’s throat while “negotiations” dragged on.

As for the alleged offer of his return in exchange for amnesty, I would have nixed it too. What’s the disincentive to taking hostages if you can use them to buy your way out of a jam? Hannity isn’t really knocking Obama over this, is he?

Update (Ed): I’m with AP on this.  I’m not in the least bit perturbed that the pirates wanted a way out and didn’t get it.  In fact, I’m pretty happy with everyone realizing that we’re not going to give an inch or any quarter when it comes to pirates.  The best way for them to stay alive?  Stop pirating.  Otherwise, you’ve got it coming.

Be sure to read Legal Insurrection’s post on this in our Green Room.