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World

US captain recaptured after leaping in the ocean

A ship's captain held captive by four pirates off the Somali coast has made a dramatic but unsuccessful escape attempt. Captain Richard Phillips is the first American ever to be captured by Somali pirates.

Mrs Andrea Phillips holds a photo of her husband Captain Richard Phillips

Phillips' wife shows a photo of the captain on dry land

Phillips leapt into the Indian ocean in a desperate effort to flee but was hauled back on board.

His ship, the 17,000-tonne Maersk Alabama and its crew, was briefly captured by pirates 500 kilometers (310 miles) off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday. The crew managed to fight off the attackers. The pirates detained the skipper and are reportedly seeking a 1.5 million euro (US$2 million) ransom for his release.

Maersk Alabama is now sailing toward its original destination of Mombasa in Kenya. The United States military says extra ships are due to arrive in waters off the Somali coast this weekend to increase pressure on the Somali pirates to release Phillips. The USS Halyburton, a frigate carrying helicopters and guided missiles has already arrived.

Pirates take hijacked German ship towards standoff scene

The USS Bainbridge Destroyer

More US warships are to join the USS Bainbridge destroyer

Two boats full of heavily-armed fellow pirates have taken up position near the four on the lifeboat, but are too nervous to come near due to the presence of foreign naval ships including the American warships.

"We are not afraid of the Americans," one of the pirates told Reuters by satellite phone on behalf of the pirates holding Phillips, far off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean. "We will defend ourselves if attacked."

The pirates holding foreign crew on a a hijacked German ship are heading towards the lifeboat. A pirate source told Reuters that the pirates are counting on the fact that the Americans will not destroy the German ship."

Phillips is one of about 270 hostages being held at the moment by Somali pirates, who have been terrorising ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for years. Pirate gangs in 2008 seized dozens of vessels and collected tens of millions of dollars in ransom.

International efforts to stop piracy

Since April 4 this year, Somali pirates have hijacked a US container ship, a small French sailing yacht, a British-owned Italian-operated cargo, a German container carrier, a Taiwanese fishing vessel and a Yemeni tugboat.

Around 15 warships from the European Union, Russia, the United States, India and China are patrolling an area of about 2.85 million square kilometres. 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.

Meanwhile French forces on Friday 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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