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An American skipper held hostage by pirates tried to swim to freedom Friday but was recaptured seconds later when the bandits opened fire within view of a U.S. destroyer.


Four Somali pirates, who are demanding a ransom, were ready to kill Capt. Richard Phillips if they are attacked, according to a Somali in contact with the captors.

The high seas drama turned more complex and potentially deadly in its third day as both pirates and American forces rushed reinforcements to the scene several hundred miles off the coast of Somalia. The crisis stemmed from a thwarted attempt to take over the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama freighter and is testing the new Obama administration.

The pirates summoned reinforcements, calling in four commandeered ships with hostages from a variety of nations including the Philippines, Russia and Germany, according to the Somali in touch with the pirates.

The U.S. was also bolstering its force by dispatching other warships to the scene several hundred miles off the Somali coast, which already was under watch by the destroyer USS Bainbridge — named after William Bainbridge, an American naval officer who fought pirates off the Barbary Coast in the early 19th century.


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