Capt. Richard Phillips rescued from pirates by Navy Seals

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The U.S. merchant vessel captain held hostage by Somali pirates has been freed by American special forces in a heroic rescue mission which left three abductors dead, CNN reported on Sunday.

Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama was freed unharmed by the U.S. Navy Seals off the coast of Africa. Three of the pirates were killed and the fourth was captured.

“His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement. “I am also very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies who worked tirelessly to secure Captain Phillips’ safe recovery.”

Phillips, 53, from Vermont, was taken hostage Wednesday, after pirates hijacked the merchant ship.

The slain pirates were killed before they could pull their own triggers, CNN reported, citing a senior U.S. official.