The shipping captain held hostage by Somali pirates will return to the United States with his crew on Wednesday after a scheduled reunion with them in Mombassa, Kenya.
Maersk Line Limited said Tuesday that Captain Richard Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama are expected to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland late Wednesday. They are taking a chartered flight from Mombasa.
Pirates took over the boat briefly last week before Phillips surrendered himself in exchange for the safety of his 19-member crew. Phillips was taken hostage on a lifeboat for days before an elite Navy unit killed the pirates and rescued the captain on Sunday.
Phillips and crew will be reunited with loved ones at Andrews Air Force Base in a private reception area.
After Navy SEAL snipers rescued him on Sunday by killing three young pirates who held him captive in a drifting life boat, he was initially taken aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based USS Bainbridge immediately after his rescue and then flown to the San Diego-based USS Boxer for a medical exam.
The remaining 19 American crewmembers of the Alabama disembarked from the ship Tuesday morning and moved to a nearby seaside hotel in Mombassa, Kenya.
The crew were moved to the Intercontinental Hotel Mombassa, a seaside resort north of the port, where the Alabama is docked.
A new crew boarded the Alabama and will work to off load the food aid cargo which remains on the ship and then travel on.
the Intercontinental is off limits to press although a small media scrum formed at the front gate.
The 19 crew members of the Alabama celebrated their skipper's freedom with beer and an evening barbecue Monday in the Kenyan port of Mombassa, said crewman Ken Quinn, who ventured out holding a Tusker beer — a popular brew in Kenya.
Earlier, the vessel's chief mate was among those urging strong U.S. action against piracy.
"It's time for us to step in and put an end to this crisis," Shane Murphy said. "It's a crisis. Wake up."
In Burlington, Vt., Phillips' wife, Andrea Phillips thanked Obama, who approved the dramatic sniper operation.
"With Richard saved, you all just gave me the best Easter ever," she said in a statement.
The American ship had been carrying food aid bound for Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda when the ordeal began Wednesday hundreds of miles off Somalia's eastern coast. As the pirates clambered aboard and shot in the air, Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men.
Phillips was then taken hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was soon shadowed by three U.S. warships and a helicopter.
Navy SEAL snipers on the USS Bainbridge got the go-ahead to fire after one pirate held an AK-47 close to Phillips' back, U.S. defense officials said.
The French navy late Monday handed over the bodies of two Somali pirates killed in a hostage rescue operation last week to the authorities in the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland, and they were buried by locals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.