The U.S. Navy and
the FBI say they are working to free the American captain of a cargo ship being
held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
The pirates briefly hijacked the container ship Maersk Alabama on Wednesday, and then took Captain Richard Phillips captive as they escaped aboard a lifeboat after the ship's crew re-took control of the vessel.
A U.S. warship, the USS Bainbridge, arrived at the scene early Thursday. Officials will not say exactly how close it is to the lifeboat, but several sources say it is close enough to see the small craft drifting in the Indian Ocean.
Clinton: lifeboat has run out of
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the lifeboat appears to have run out of fuel and "the Navy is there." An FBI spokesman said a hostage negotiation team is "fully engaged" with the military in trying to free Phillips.
One of the pirates onboard the lifeboat told the Reuters news agency they are "surrounded by warships and do not have time to talk."
Shipping company: captain's return is top
The shipping company says the captain's return is its top priority. It said the "most recent contact" indicates that he is unharmed.
The 17,000-ton container vessel was carrying emergency food aid to Mombasa, Kenya.
The ship was the sixth vessel seized in the region within a week but it was the first American-registered vessel to be hijacked by the pirates operating off the coast of East Africa.
The pirates, who operate from bases on Somalia's east coast, are currently holding more than a dozen ships and their crews.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.