U.S. President Barack Obama says he is determined to halt piracy in the shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia. Mr. Obama spoke one day after the dramatic rescue of an American cargo ship captain who was held hostage by Somali pirates for five days.
Richard Phillips was rescued on Sunday after members of an elite U.S. Navy unit shot three of his captors.
President Obama ordered the military to take action if it was believed that Phillips' life was in danger. He said he is pleased with the results, noting that the captain's safety was his top concern throughout the standoff. "I am very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies that worked tirelessly to resolve this situation," he said.
Mr. Obama said the American people also have reason to be proud of the captain who offered himself as a hostage to protect the crew of his cargo ship. "I share our nation's admiration for Captain Phillips' courage and leadership and selfless concern for his crew," he said.
The president's first public comments on the dramatic rescue came on Monday at an event at the U.S. Department of Transportation. His initial response was delivered Sunday in the form of a written statement. And in his remarks, the president made many of the same points.
He vowed again that America will do all it can to end piracy in the region, working in concert with nations around the world. "We are going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks. We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes," he said.
President Obama did not refer to a new round of threats from the pirates, who say they want revenge for the killing of three of their own in the rescue operation.
At the U.S. Defense Department, spokesman Bryan Whitman said there is always concern that the use of force by the military could lead to reprisals. But he said the shootings might make the pirates less inclined to attack ships. He said that until now, the pirates have been operating almost with impunity. "I think the actions the United States military took -- the other night, the other day, yesterday -- could certainly have that affect where people are less inclined to engage in that type of activity," he said.
Pirates hold more than 230 hostages from several countries. Andrea Phillips, the wife of the rescued cargo ship captain, says they remain in her thoughts.
On Monday, she made her first appearance since the rescue. A bad case of laryngitis prevented her from speaking on her own behalf. Instead, she wrote a statement that was read by Allison McCool, an employee of the shipping company that employs her husband. "Andrea wants you all to remember that they are just one family that has been impacted. There are many more families going through what the Phillips have endured presently. And those families are in the prayers of the Phillips family," she said.
It is unclear when Richard Phillips will be reunited with his family, although they have spoken by telephone. In her statement, Andrea Phillips said her husband considers the U.S. military to be the real heroes of his ordeal.