17:35 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 18:35 UK (BBC)
The captain of a US container ship taken hostage by Somali pirates has been released, US media report.
According to initial reports, three pirates were killed in the operation to free Captain Richard Phillips. Another is in custody. (Guy in custody was on US ship negotiating)
Capt Phillips is said to be unhurt and on the USS Bainbridge, a warship sent to track the pirates holding him.
He was taken hostage last Wednesday after pirates briefly hijacked his ship, the Maersk Alabama.
CNN) -- The captain of the Maersk Alabama was freed Sunday after being held captive since Wednesday by pirates off the coast of Somalia, a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
The official said Capt. Richard Phillips is uninjured and in good condition, and that three of the four pirates were killed. The fourth pirate is in custody. Phillips was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.
Earlier Sunday afternoon Maersk Line Limited, owner of the Maersk Alabama, said the U.S. Navy informed the company that it had sighted Phillips in a lifeboat where pirates are holding him.
Phillips was spotted another time earlier in the day, the Navy said.
A man who answered the door at Phillips' home in Underhill, Vermont, told CNN's Stephanie Elam that the family has known the news for hours. He said details would have to come from Virginia, apparently referring to the home base of Maersk Line Limited, based in Norfolk, which owns the ship.
On Saturday, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into the hijacking of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates, two law enforcement officials told CNN. The probe will be led by the FBI's New York field office, which is responsible for looking into cases involving U.S. citizens in the African region, the officials said.
The Maersk Alabama reached port in Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday. Crew members aboard the freed cargo ship described how some of their colleagues attempted to "jump" their pirate captors.
A scuffle ensued and one of the sailors stabbed a pirate in the hand in the battle to retake the container ship, one of the sailors told CNN.
Snippets of information are starting to emerge about how the Alabama's crew managed to retake the ship after it was hijacked by pirates Wednesday about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
Crew members smiled broadly as they stood on the ship's deck under the watchful eyes of security teams. Although the crew was kept away from the media, CNN's Stan Grant got close enough to ask crew members what happened after the pirates climbed aboard the ship.
One crew member said he recalled being awakened around 7 a.m. as the hijacking began. View a timeline of the attack and its aftermath »
* In the Field Blog: Snippets of fear and bravery
* Source: Pirates repel sailors attempting to reach captain
* Ex-crew member: Captain prepared for pirate attack
* WPVI: Crew member's fiancee: 'Feels like a dream'
"I was scared," Grant quoted the man as saying.
Some of the crew managed to hide in a secure part of the Alabama as the pirates stormed the ship, the sailor said.
As the sailors described their clash with the pirates, a crew member pointed to one shipmate and said, "This guy is a hero. He and the chief engineer, they took down the pirate. ... He led him down there to the engine room and then they jumped him."
The shipmate added that he stabbed the pirate's hand and tied him up.
"Capt. Phillips is a hero," another crew member shouted from the deck of the freed ship.
Since Phillips was captured Wednesday, the destroyer USS Bainbridge has been in the area of the lifeboat, trying to free him.
An attempt by Phillips to escape from the 28-foot covered lifeboat was thwarted by a pirate, who dove into the Indian Ocean after him. Phillips' captors appear to have tied him up afterward, Pentagon officials said.
The Alabama resumed its course on Thursday for Mombasa, its original destination, carrying food aid and an armed 18-person security detail.
Maersk president and CEO John Reinhart told reporters Saturday that the crew will stay on board in Mombasa while the FBI conducts an investigation.
(Apparently he jumped in the water again and this time sharpshooters immediately nailed the hijackers)