Rescue is praised, but piracy may grow
LONDON - President Obama and the US military drew high praise yesterday for the liberation of an American sea captain held by Somali pirates, but some military experts fear the killing of three pirates will escalate the conflict off the coast of Somalia.
They warn that pirate attacks will not end with the freedom of Captain Richard Phillips and may turn more violent now that the world's most powerful military force has used snipers to kill pirates.
There is no sign of an international consensus about how best to deal with the bandits. Some countries are willing to pay ransom to free their nationals, while France and the United States have chosen to attack instead.
"Obama has won the respect of his allies," said Robert Fox, defense correspondent for London's Evening Standard newspaper.
"It was very decisive, very high-risk, and it could have gone badly wrong. But it's an escalation, and it shows that this really is a permanent problem, not just a colorful story, and it will take a substantial amount of work."
Fox said the US government was pressing Europe's governments to step up surveillance efforts and do more to fight the scourge. He said more action would be needed to "clean out" pirate enclaves.
Charles Heyman, a defense specialist and former British Army officer, said the Obama administration showed its resolve by refusing to pay ransom.
"That would have been disastrous," he said. "America would have been a laughingstock, and we really don't need that." But, he said, history shows pirates can be defeated only if nations unite, which is not happening.
"As long as governments don't come together and defeat it, it goes on like a plague," he said. "People have to be very, very tough with this."
The US rescue effort was a clear success in tactical terms, but Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, warned it could lead to increased violence.
Family members of some of the 228 foreign nationals still held hostage on other pirate vessels worried about reprisals against their loved ones.
"Those released are lucky, but what about those who remain captive?" said Vilma de Guzman, the wife of Filipino seaman Ruel de Guzman, who has been held by pirates since November, along with 22 other Filipino crewmen.