Maritime officials in east Africa say Somali pirates are sending several hijacked ships carrying dozens of hostages to an area where other pirates are in a standoff with the U.S. Navy over American captive Richard Phillips.
The officials say the pirates, who are holding Phillips on a lifeboat, are apparently trying to use the other hostages as shields. The pirates have threatened to kill Phillips if they are attacked. They are also demanding a ransom for his release.
Captain tries to escape
Earlier Friday, U.S. military officials said the captured American captain tried to escape the lifeboat he is being held on by jumping into the sea. But they say he was recaptured by the pirates.
The officials say the failed escape happened within view of a U.S warship, the USS Bainbridge, which has been tracking the lifeboat.
Phillips has been held since Wednesday when hijackers briefly seized control of his cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, which was delivering humanitarian aid.
His 20-man crew regained control of the vessel, which is now enroute to Kenya, but hijackers took Phillips with them on the lifeboat.
More US warships heading to region
Two more U.S. warships are also headed toward the area to help with a possible rescue operation.
As this standoff gets more media coverage, pirates holding other hostages have also been trying to get attention.
Other pirates making theats
In an interview with VOA Somali service, a Somali pirate on board a Kuwaiti ship threatened to kill 17 crew members his men have been holding since January.
Reuters news agency quoted Somali pirates as saying a $2.4 million ransom had been agreed to with owners of a Norwegian ship to release that vessel and crew, which has been held since March.