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Somali Pirates Thwart U.S. Captain’s Escape Attempt

American ship Capt. Richard Phillips tried to swim away from his Somali captors Friday but was quickly recaptured, as another pirate ship and a U.S. warship headed to the scene about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. A reporter discusses the developments.

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    Our lead story: There was more drama on the high seas off Africa today in a series of hostage standoffs with Somali pirates. American Captain Richard Phillips tried to escape his captors, but was recaptured, as U.S. defense officials watched from a nearby destroyer.

    Officials told the Associated Press the USS Boxer, the flagship for a multination anti-piracy task force, will be nearby soon.

    And there were reports that the pirates asked for backup from other hijacked ships in the region.

    The French navy rescued four hostages on a yacht, but one was killed in the operation.

    And a Norwegian ship was released after pirates were paid a ransom.

    Ray Suarez talked to Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times earlier today via satellite phone from East Africa.


    Jeffrey, what do we know at this hour about the attempted escape of the captain of the Maersk Alabama?

  • JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, New York Times:

    The details are very fuzzy, but what we've been told is the captain jumped overboard, tried to swim to a nearby naval ship, and then the pirates jumped in after him and dragged him back to the lifeboat. And I just saw a report in the last few minutes that said that a U.S. aircraft had flown over the lifeboat and that the captain was in it and appeared to be OK.


    Have the pirates holding the captain made a formal ransom demand?


    We don't really know. There have been some reports that somebody from a town called Xarardheere, which is on the Somalia coast and is known as a notorious pirate den, that somebody from there had said they want $2 million to free the captain.

    But there are other reports that I've been hearing that this incident may not even be connected to the pirates in Xarardheere. It may be another group of pirates farther up the coast, so it's not really clear who's holding the captain and what they want.

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