American Captain Held by Pirates Tries to Escape

Tensions escalate in the waters off Africa over Capt. Richard Phillips

Photo: Maersk Line/AP; AP

Capt. Richard P. Phillips, now in his third day as a hostage held by ransom-hungry Somali pirates, attempted to escape Thursday night, NBC News reported Friday morning. He was not successful, and tensions over the situation continue to mount in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

On Wednesday, four pirates hijacked the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama as it was transporting humanitarian aid to countries in Africa. After a skirmish aboard the ship, Capt. Phillips offered himself in exchange for the release of his crew of 19. An attempt to swap the captain for a member of the pirate band who had been captured by the ship’s crew failed when the pirates reneged on their end of the deal and took Philips away in a lifeboat.

The Maersk Alabama resumed its journey Thursday toward Mombasa, Kenya, with a security detail protecting the remaining members of the crew. Both the FBI and the U.S. Navy have been attempting to secure Phillips’s release through ongoing negotiations. American authorities say Phillips’s welfare is their primary concern, but have not ruled out a rescue operation.

A Vermont resident, an avid skier and the father of two college-age children, Phillips, 55, worked as a cab driver in Boston before going to sea. “What I understand is, he offered himself as the hostage to keep the rest of the crew safe,” his sister-in-law, Gina Coggio, told ABC s Good Morning America. “That is what he would do, that’s just who he is, and his responsibility as the captain.

The captain’s wife, Andrea Philips, said that right before pirates abducted her husband, “I knew exactly where he was. I just got an e-mail from him and knew he was heading into Mombasa. He had even made the comment that pirate activity was picking up.”

She added, “I always hoped it wasn’t going to happen to us. I would love to be able to hear from my husband. I’m sure when he gets a moment I ll be one of the first people he calls.”

Related Articles