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Pirates bolster comrades withhostage captain

THE American captain held hostage by four Somali pirates made a desperate escape attempt yesterday but was recaptured, and officials said other pirates sought to reinforce their colleagues by sailing hijacked ships with other captives aboard to the scene of the standoff.

A Somali in contact with a pirate leader said the captors want a ransom and are ready to kill the hostage, Captain Richard Phillips, if attacked.

The United States was bolstering its force by dispatching other warships to the site off the Horn of Africa, where a US destroyer shadowed the drifting lifeboat carrying Phillips.

He was taken hostage in the pirates' failed effort to hijack the cargo ship Maersk Alabama on Wednesday.

The pirates' strategy is to link up with their colleagues, who are holding Russian, German, Filipino and other hostages, and get Phillips to lawless Somalia, where they could hide the hostage and make it difficult to stage a rescue. It would give them more leverage and a stronger negotiating position to discuss a ransom.

About midnight local time, Phillips jumped off the lifeboat and began swimming, but he was recaptured, according to Defense Department officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sailors on the USS Bainbridge, which is patrolling nearby, were able to see Phillips moving around and talking after his return to the lifeboat, and the Defense Department officials think he is unharmed.

Negotiations are taking place between the pirates and the captain of the Bainbridge, who is getting direction from FBI hostage negotiators, the officials said.

The captors are also communicating with other pirate vessels by satellite phone, officials said.


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