Somali Pirates Still Hold American Captain

Capt. Richard Phillips is being held hostage by Somali pirates for the third day. He jumped overboard Friday, but his escape attempt was unsuccessful. Phillips and the pirates remain adrift in a lifeboat off the Horn of Africa. A U.S. destroyer is nearby, and more American warships are on the way.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

And I'm Ari Shapiro. There's been a dramatic development this morning in the hostage standoff in the waters near Somalia. Captain Richard Phillips is being held by Somali pirates in a lifeboat for the third day, and this morning, he jumped overboard. His escape attempt was unsuccessful. A U.S. destroyer was standing watch nearby, and more American warships are on the way. FBI negotiators are also involved in this drama. NPR's Tom Bowman is here with more details. Good morning, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN: Good morning, Ari.

SHAPIRO: First, what do we know about this escape attempt?

BOWMAN: Well, we're told that his took place around midnight local time. Captain Richard Phillips jumped away from the lifeboat, and we're not sure how far away he got from the boat. And then two of the four pirates jumped in and grabbed him and hauled him back into the boat. It's not sure if this was captured by the unmanned drone that the Navy has flying nearby.

SHAPIRO: When you say captured, you mean images of it, photographs.

BOWMAN: It captured - we're not sure if that happened or not. But what we do know is that the - once Captain Phillips got back on the lifeboat, he did communicate with officers aboard the USS Bainbridge, the destroyer nearby. He said he's okay. He's not injured. And essentially, he said, I tried to make a run for it.

SHAPIRO: And just to set the scene here, there is this massive American warship, and this little lifeboat with four pirates and one hostage. The pirates have said if they are attacked, they will fight back and try to defend themselves. Where does that leave the U.S. Navy?

BOWMAN: Well, it's a waiting game. This has been going on now for three days. This lifeboat, we're told, has enough food and water for seven to 10 days. There aren't that many good options right now. People I talk with in the government say, we're not negotiating with the pirates. We're communicating with them. And as you say, they claim that they're going to shoot if the Navy tries to take back the captain. So it's a waiting game, and we have no sense of when this is going to end.

SHAPIRO: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about this standoff yesterday. She held a press conference, where she called for an international effort to end piracy. Let's listen to some of what she said.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): Piracy may be a centuries-old crime, but we are working to bring an appropriate, 21st century response.

SHAPIRO: Tom, how do you think those words will be received abroad?

BOWMAN: Well, there already is an international response. There's more than 15 to 20 ships out there, including U.S. ships, French ships and so forth. But you have to remember, this area is roughly four times the size of Texas. You could put dozens of more warships out into this area, and you would still have a hard time finding all the pirates. There are many, many ships, small and large ships out there. It's hard to tell who's a pirate and who's not. And people say that the best way to deal with this is on land, going after the pirates' havens in Somalia. But that's easier said than done. There are several tribes involved in the pirate activity, and it's just difficult to root them out.

SHAPIRO: What about General David Petraeus, who's overseeing operations in the region? I understand he wants to send more ships.

BOWMAN: Right. There are more U.S. warships to the north, up around the Gulf of Aden. And Petraeus, we're told, has ordered some more warships to head down toward the Somali coast, where there's more pirate activity now - among them, the USS Gettysburg and the USS Haliburton are a couple of ships up there. We're not sure exactly which ships will be heading down, but Petraeus has said he expects them to move into this area, probably within the next 48 hours.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Tom Bowman on the latest news with this hostage standoff, that Captain Richard Phillips attempted to escape the lifeboat where he was being held hostage, and that attempt was unsuccessful. Thanks very much, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Ari.

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