"I want to take a moment to say how pleased I am about the rescue of Capt. Phillips and his safe return... I had a chance to talk to his wife yesterday. And as she put it, she couldn't imagine a better Easter than seeing his safe return," the president said.
Film of Phllips, 53, on board the Bainbridge showed him smiling while being greeted by sailors and telling them, "Thank you very much."
As Americans celebrated, however, pirates along Somalia's coast simmered with anger and vowed revenge against U.S. and French sailors. French commandos killed two pirates in a rescue operation last week that also killed one of the pirates' hostages.
"From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)," Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl. "(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy."
"Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The AP today. "We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men."
Gortney conceded on Sunday that the U.S. actions could have raised the stakes for ships in pirate-infested waters.
"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," Gortney said.
Gates said the problem is piracy has forced itself on the Obama administration.
"I think we're going to end up spending a fair amount of time on this in the administration, seeing if there is a way to try and mitigate this problem of piracy," he said.
The pirates made their threats as they brought yet another captured ship into a harbor to await its ransom. This time it was an Italian tugboat hijacked in the Gulf of Aden. On board were 10 Italians, five Romanians and a Croatian. Somali pirates are believed to be holding more than 200 captured sailors for ransom.
But for the first time, a Somali pirate is on board an American warship to face justice. He is the lone survivor of the lifeboat because he surrendered and went aboard the Bainbridge for treatment of an injury he suffered during the pirates' attack on the Maersk Alabama, Phillips' freighter, last week.
Justice Department officials are trying to determine whether to try the pirate in the U.S. or leave him to a pirate court in Kenya that has yet to try anyone for piracy.
"We have multiple avenues," Gortney said. "We could possibly bring him back here to the United States and try him since this was an American flag vessel."
If tried in the U.S., it's not clear whether the pirate will be brought to New York or Washington. In the meantime, the prisoner has been transferred to the U.S.S. Boxer, the same ship where Phillips is now resting.
The U.S. also made a diplomatic move in the day after shooting the three Somali pirates. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., flew into the Somali capital of Mogadishu along with six bodyguards. He met with Somali government officials at the airport to discuss ways to end the piracy.
The Somali government, however, controls little of the country and is involved in a fight for its life against an Islamic insurgency. In fact, insurgents fired mortars at the airport as Payne's plane arrived and again when his plane departed.
After the rescue, President Obama said the battle against pirates would not end.