Somali pirates foil US captain’s escape attempt

April 10th, 2009 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi/Washington, April 10 (DPA) Somali pirates recaptured the captain of a US-operated ship after he jumped into the Indian Ocean from the lifeboat he was being held hostage on, media reports said Friday.
CNN, citing an unnamed US defence official, said that Richard Phillips leapt from the lifeboat in a daring attempt to swim to a US Navy destroyer, which is within visual range of the pirates.

The incident happened too quickly for the USS Bainbridge to help Phillips, who was apparently unhurt during his recapture.

The Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship carrying food aid, was seized by pirates Wednesday only for the crew to immediately retake the ship. However, Phillips ended up being held on the Alabama’s lifeboat by the pirates.

The USS Bainbridge, part of a coalition naval force sent to combat piracy in the region, arrived early Thursday and made contact with the lifeboat, according to a spokesman for Maersk Line Ltd, the US company that operates the ship.

Additional Navy ships were being sent to the region and were expected to arrive within 48 hours, General David Petraeus, who commands US forces in the Middle East, said Thursday in Florida.

One of the ships is believed to be the USS Halyburton, a frigate with two helicopters on board.

The Alabama steamed away from the area and was Friday heading toward its original destination of Mombasa, Kenya.

Some observers said they expect the hostage drama to drag on for days. Navy forces are generally reluctant to storm ships to free crew members being held hostage.

However, the pirates are in a weak bargaining position with no fuel for the lifeboat and only one hostage.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters in Washington that the “safe return of the captain is the top priority.”

The 17,000-tonne Alabama, owned by the Danish firm Maersk, was taken around 500 km off Somalia.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |