Somali insurgents fired upon an airplane carrying a U.S. lawmaker on Monday, just one day after an American ship captain was saved from Somali pirates.
The Washington Post reports that al-Shabab fired mortar rounds at the plane carrying Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey as it took off from Somalia’s captial, Mogadishu. He had been there to visit the country’s new president, Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist. It was the first visit that the U.S. had made to the country in years.
The rounds missed the plane, but they killed five Somali civilians on the ground. Al-Shabab is an insurgent group that has ties to al-Qaeda. Donald and his fellow passengers weren’t aware of the danger they had been in until they landed in Nairobi.
"It was not exactly a typical day in the life," he told the Post. "But we felt it was safe enough to go in. We have no regrets about going in."
The visit, which had been scheduled for weeks, ended up coinciding with the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips; Somali Pirates had held hostage on a lifeboat for five days.
According to CNN, Richard was rescued Sunday, April 12 after Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney ordered snipers to open fire on the pirates holding the captain hostage.
The White House had directed the Navy SEALS to shoot if it looked like Capt. Richard’s life was in danger. Vice Adm. Bill said the pirates "had an AK-47 leveled at the captain’s back."
Thankfully, Capt. Richard was not hit during several minutes of shooting. Since his rescue on Easter, the captain has contacted his family in Vermont, and doctors gave him a medical exam.
Three pirates were killed by gunfire in Sunday’s shootings when they began to become agitated with U.S. negotiators. A fourth pirate on board is now being held in custody. "The pirate who surrendered earlier today [April 12] is being treated humanely; his counterparts who continued to fight paid with their lives" Vice Adm. Bill told reporters.
Capt. Richard was taken hostage April 8 when pirates stormed his ship, the Maersk Alabama, which was sailing about 350 miles off the coast of Somlia. The shoot-out ended a five-day nightmare where pirates held Capt. Richard captive in a lifeboat while the U.S. tried to negotiate with them.
– Sonya Eskrdge