MOMBASA, Kenya – The sea captain held hostage for five days by Somali pirates arrived in Kenya Thursday aboard an American destroyer that docked to the strains of "Sweet Home Alabama."
Capt. Richard Phillips of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama cargo ship was brought into Kenya's Mombasa harbor aboard the USS Bainbridge, which blared out the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit that includes the words "I'm coming home to you." The destroyer hoisted the U.S. flag as it arrived.
Phillips had planned to arrive a day earlier and reunite with his crew. But the Bainbridge diverted to answer a distress call from another U.S. cargo ship attacked by pirates.
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That ship, the Liberty Sun, arrived earlier Thursday with a battered bridge and windows blown out by gunfire but its 20 crew unharmed.
Phillips' crew flew home Wednesday and were reunited with their families at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
A security official at Mombasa airport said a charter plane is on standby to whisk Phillips home.
Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont, gave himself up as a hostage to ensure the safety of his crew on the Maersk Alabama. He was held by pirates for five days on an enclosed and drifting lifeboat until he was freed Sunday by Navy SEAL sharpshooters. They killed his three captors with three shots taken from the stern of the Bainbridge amid choppy seas and at night.
He reaches safe port a day after the United States declared a new initiative to fight the marauders by hunting down their multimillion-dollar ransoms. France, meanwhile, pursued the military option, seizing a pirate supply ship and 11 suspects.
One pirate issued a new threat to "slaughter" Americans, and Tuesday's attack on the U.S.-flagged Liberty Sun underscored the outlaws' ability to act with impunity despite international naval operations and mounting concern worldwide over how to halt the escalating piracy off the Horn of Africa.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced new diplomatic efforts to freeze the pirates' assets and said the Obama administration will work with shippers and insurers to improve their defenses against pirates.
"These pirates are criminals, they are armed gangs on the sea. And those plotting attacks must be stopped," Clinton said at the State Department.
Clinton did not call for military force, although she mentioned "going after" pirate bases in Somalia, as authorized by the U.N. several months ago.
The measures are largely stopgap moves while the administration weighs more comprehensive diplomatic and military action.