U.S. Central Command chief General David says U.S. ships are heading toward the site of a confrontation off the coast of Somalia, where pirates are holding a U.S. ship captain hostage.
U.S. captain Richard Phillips has been held by pirates on a lifeboat since Wednesday, when Phillips's crew foiled an attack on their ship. A U.S. warship, the USS Bainbridge, is trailing the lifeboat. Pentagon officials say another Navy ship, the Halyburton, has also arrived in the area, and the USS Boxer will be there soon.
News wires quoting Somali sources say at least one ship controlled by the pirates is also headed to the area.
Earlier Friday, U.S. military officials said the captured American captain tried to escape the lifeboat by jumping into the sea, but he was immediately recaptured by the pirates.
Meanwhile, his ship, the Maersk Alabama, has continued on its way to Kenya with a load of emergency supplies for refugees.
The French government, which was dealing with its own standoff against Somali pirates, said Friday that one hostage and two pirates were killed as French forces freed a yacht carrying French nationals off Somalia. Meanwhile, a Norwegian ship and its international crew were released. Pirates were quoted as saying they had received a ransom payment from the ship's owners.
There has been a sharp increase in pirate attacks off Somalia in recent months. Six ships were hijacked in the past week alone.