President Barack Obama promised Monday towork with other nations "to halt the rise of piracy," whileSomali pirates vowed revenge for the deaths of three colleaguesshot by snipers during the daring high-seas rescue of an Americansea captain.
The pirates' threat raised fears for the safety of some 230foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen shipsanchored off lawless Somalia.
Sunday's nighttime operation was a remarkable achievement forsnipers on a rolling warship in choppy seas, but few expertsbelieve the victory will quell a rising tide of attacks in one ofthe world's busiest shipping lanes. [ Click here to see the latest photos of Captain Phillips and the rescue ]
One of the American sailors whose captain was rescued after thefive-day standoff urged Obama on Monday to take the lead in endingthe scourge of piracy.
"It's time for us to step in and put an end to this crisis,"he said. "It's a crisis, wake up," said Shane Murphy, chief mateaboard the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama.
At a Washington news conference, Obama said: "I want to be veryclear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in thatregion and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue towork with our partners to prevent future attacks."
"We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when theyarise, and we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracyare held accountable for their crimes," the president said.
Somali pirates said they were undaunted.
"From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respectivecountries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages),"Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told The Associated Press fromone of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl. "(U.S. forces have) become ourNo. 1 enemy."
Sunday's stunning resolution came after pirates had agreed tolet the USS Bainbridge tow their powerless lifeboat out of roughwater. A fourth pirate surrendered earlier Sunday and could facelife in a U.S. prison. He had been seeking medical attention for awound to his hand, military officials said.
Interviewed from Bahrain, U.S. Naval Forces Central Commandchief Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said Navy SEAL snipers killed threepirates with single shots shortly after sailors on the Bainbridgesaw the hostage-takers "with their heads and shoulders exposed."
U.S. Defense officials said snipers got the go-ahead to fireafter one pirate held an AK-47 close to Capt. Richard Phillips'back. The military officials asked not to be named because theywere not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
"(The snipers are) extremely, extremely well-trained," Gortneytold NBC's "Today" show, saying the shooting was ordered by thecaptain of the Bainbridge.
The SEALS arrived on the scene by parachuting from theiraircraft into the sea, and were picked up by the Bainbridge, asenior U.S. official said.
He said negotiations with the pirates had been "going up anddown." The official, asking not to be identified because he, too,was not authorized to discuss this on the record, said the pirateswere "becoming increasingly agitated in the rough waters; theyweren't getting what they wanted."
Just as it was getting dark, pirates fired a tracer bullet"toward the Bainbridge," further heightening tensions, theofficial said.
At news of Phillips' rescue, his crew in Kenya broke into wildcheers and tears came to the eyes of those in Phillips' hometown ofUnderhill, Vermont, half a world away from the Indian Ocean drama.It was not immediately known when or how Phillips would returnhome.
Phillips' crew has said he gave himself up as a hostage tosecure their release when the ship was first attacked last week.Obama called the captain's courage "a model for all Americans"and said he was pleased with the rescue.
Sunday's blow to the pirates' lucrative activities is unlikelyto stop them, simply because of the size of the vast area -- 1.1million square miles -- stretching from the Gulf of Aden and thecoast of Somalia. But it could raises tensions in an alreadylawless area.
"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, noquestion about it," said Gortney.
A Somali pirate agreed.
"Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In thefuture, America will be the one mourning and crying," AbdullahiLami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in theSomali town of Gaan, told The Associated Press on Monday. "We willretaliate (for) the killings of our men."
- Click here to see the latest photos of Captain Phillips and the rescue