By Jordy Yager
President Obama hailed the rescue Sunday of an American captain held hostage for four days off the coast of Somalia.
Richard Phillips, the ship captain, was freed unharmed after a firefight killed three of his pirate captors. The fourth pirate was captured and has been taken into American custody, according to news reports.
Obama praised Phillips’s courage in a statement pushing for greater safety measures in the region. The pirate attack on Phillips’s ship was the first on American sailors in 200 years, but it was the sixth attack in the past week along the lawless Somali coast.
“We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region,” Obama said. “To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.”
Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday echoed Obama’s comments, saying that the government and military were taking steps to ensure that future hijackings of in the region did not take place.
“We’re in the process of helping create a code of conduct for merchant ships so they can minimize the threats,” Allen said on ABC’s This Week. “Slow ships with low freeboard present a much greater target than faster ships and higher freeboard.”
Congress was spurred to action as well, as earlier this week Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for hearings on the mounting piracy threat in the region when Congress returns next week.
The armed pirates attacked Phillips’ ship, the Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday while in the Indian Ocean delivering food aid to Kenya for the World Food Program and the United States Agency for International Development.
The 20-member crew regained control of the ship from the attackers, but Phillips was captured and held for a reported $2 million ransom by the four pirates on one of the ships’ lifeboats.
Phillips attempted to escape from his captors on Friday by jumping into the water, but he was recaptured shortly thereafter.