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Germany

Pirates on German vessel lose their bearings

Pirates on a German container ship have turned back to the Somali coast, according to news agency Reuters. It's reported they failed to find their target; a lifeboat where an American captain is being held hostage.

Somali pirates in a small boat

Somali pirates are now attacking ships farther from the coast to avoid international patrols

It is believed the Somali pirates had intended to use the ship as a shield to help four comrades involved in the standoff.

A pirate on the hijacked vessel, Hansa Stavanger, with five German nationals 19 other hostages believed to be on board, told Reuters they were forced to head back to the Haradheere coast because they could not locate the lifeboat.

"We almost got lost because we could not find the bearing of the lifeboat," the pirate who identified himself to Reuters as Suleiman said.

The pirates had counted on the fact that the Americans would not attack the German freighter -- which was captured on April 4 -- should US warships launch a rescue attempt.

A large cargo ship

The German cargo ship "Hansa Stavanger" with 24 crew on board was hijacked a week ago

Four heavily armed pirates have been holding US Navy Captain Richard Phillips hostage in a lifeboat far off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, news agency AFP reports that pirate commander Abdi Garad has said they plan to move Phillips to another ship.

"We are planning to transfer the hostage on to one of the ships our friends are holding around Garacad area so that we can wait," he told AFP.

He also warned against force being used to resuce Phillips, saying it would result in "disaster."

Pirates want 2.5 million euros for US captain

The US is sending extra ships to waters off the Somali coast to increase pressure on the pirates to release Phillips. The USS Halyburton, a frigate carrying helicopters and guided missiles, arrived late on Friday to join the USS Bainbridge Destroyer. Another frigate is due to arrive shortly.

Captain Phillips was captured after a failed attempt to hijack the 17,000-tonne Maersk Alabama 500 kilometers (310 miles) off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday. The pirates are reportedly seeking a 1.5 million euros ($2 million) ransom for his release.

Phillips made a desperate attempt to escape overnight by jumping into the ocean, but he was recaptured after pirates fired gunshots. He is the first American to be taken hostage by Somali pirates.

Military personnel walk with an accused pirate.

The German military handed over another group of suspected Somali pirates to Kenya on Thursday

International efforts to stop piracy

Somali pirates who have been terrorising ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for years are currently holding around 270 hostages on around 13 ships. Pirate gangs in 2008 seized dozens of vessels and collected tens of millions of dollars in ransom.

Around 15 warships from the European Union, Russia, the United States, India and China are patrolling an area of about 2.85 million square kilometers. The pirates however are shifting their target areas further into the Indian Ocean to avoid the international patrols. The pirates can freely return to Somalia since there has been no functioning government in the lawless country since 1991.

Pirates late on Friday released a Norwegian-owned tanker after receiving a ransom payment believed to be over 1.8 million euros.

Hours earlier, French forces freed a private yacht captured by Somali pirates. One hostage and two pirates were killed in the rescue action. Four other hostages, including a child, were saved, while three other pirates were captured.

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