Pirates continue to hold Captain Richard Phillips hostage in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean. A U.S. warship is nearby and others are on the way to the scene. The pirates however, are “rushing” their own reinforcements to the area, along with their recent “hostages” in tow. Reuters reports that the pirates have asked “for prayers.” Check here for continuing updates. Each update will be added to the bottom of this post. See a photo and video below.

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Captain Richard Phillips – Maersk Alabama

A ransom demand has been made for $2 million in exchange for Maersk Alabama Captain, Richard Phillips. The pirates also want safe passage out of the area. According to Reuters, pirates are currently in possession of eighteen “vessels with a total of 267 hostages…”

Early this morning, Captain Phillips jumped overboard, attempting to escape. It is reported that the terrorists fired an “automatic weapon.” Captain Phillips was apprehended and is now back in the lifeboat. In the meantime, an American warship looms, apparently unable to do anything to help Captain Richard Phillips:

We’ve always thought that one of the potential game changers out there is a U.S. flag vessel with U.S. citizens on board and we’re there … and that’s where we are right now.

Reuters is reporting:

Pirates hold 18 vessels with a total of 267 hostages, many of them from the Philippines, according to the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme.

In a conversation between Reuters and the pirates, the pirates ask Reuters to “please pray for them:”

Reached by Reuters via satellite phone, the pirates on the lifeboat sounded desperate. We are surrounded by warships and don’t have time to talk,” one said. Please pray for us.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, issued a statement saying she was very worried by the hijacking and called for world action to end the “scourge” of piracy. “More generally, we think the world must come together to end the “scourge…,” she says. You’ll see in the video below Clinton referring to the pirates as criminals. Reuters refers to them as “gang members.” It’s time world leaders recognize that this is terrorism, not just criminal acts.

President Obama refused to talk about the American being held. An AP reporter says Obama “has been careful–and quiet,” in his comments:

When reporters asked the president directly about the incident on Thursday, he demurred. Instead, he stayed on his message of the day, saying: “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now.”

No “spine of steel” from this President. Read background here and commentary here.

Update 4/10/09, 4:15 p.m. EST: FOX News has just reported Navy Seals are onboard the warship, U.S.S. Bainbridge warship, and it is now nighttime. Not so sure we should be talking about this. After all, Reuters has been in telephone contact with the pirates in the lifeboat.

Update 4/10/09, 7:35 p.m. EST: The U.S.S. Halyburton arrived at the site. The Halyburton is a guided-missile frigate and it carrys helicopters.
According to the AFP, the U.S.S. Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, is also in the area.

Update 4/12/09 10:35 p.m. EST: Captain Richard Phillips is safe aboard the U.S.S. Bainbridge tonight but not all the details are in. President Obama had previously issued authority to use force if the Captain appeared to be in mortal danger. At some point, the U.S.S. Bainbridge was actually towing the pirates boat, after running out of fuel. Then one of the pirates ended up onboard the Bainbridge to negotiate. Reports are that Somali clan leaders on the mainland were calling the shots.

Aboard the Bainbridge, it was noticed that one of the terrorist had an AK-47 aimed at the tied-up Phillips. The terrorists appeared agitated. Three Navy snipers took aim and each hit it’s target. The three terrorists were killed and the one aboard the Bainbridge was arrested. First reports were that Captain Phillips went into the water and then was rescued. That appears not to be the way this ended. More details when we have them.

Vice Admiral William Gortney, commander of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, says negotiations are continuing.

Update 4/12/09 – Easter Sunday 1:30 p.m. EST: FOX News reports that Captain Richard Phillips has escaped his kidnappers and is now safe on the U.S.S. Bainbridge. Phillips evidently jumped overboard again, giving Navy Seals an opportunity to help him escape. The terrorists are dead and one is in U.S. custody. More as information is available.

Captain Richard Phillips

Pirate Hostages (Photo)

Captain Richard Phillips (Video)