U.S. military officials say the American ship captain held hostage by pirates on a lifeboat off the coast of Somalia tried to escape by jumping into the sea, but was recaptured by the pirates.

The officials say the failed attempt to escape happened within view of a U.S warship, the USS Bainbridge, which has been tracking the lifeboat.  One official says kidnappers jumped into the water to recapture the U.S. captain.

Richard Phillips has been held since Wednesday when hijackers seized control of his ship, the Maersk Alabama, which was delivering humanitarian aid.  

His 20-man crew regained control of the vessel, which is now en route to Kenya, but hijackers took Phillips with them on a lifeboat.

More warships en route

Two more U.S. warships are headed toward the area.  The pirates are demanding ransom to free Phillips, and they are quoted as saying they will fight if they are attacked.

Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the lifeboat appears to have run out of fuel.  She said the Navy and FBI are working to bring an end to the hostage situation.

Analysts: Navy will probably not use force

Analysts say it is unlikely the U.S. Navy will resort to using force, because it would put the American hostage at risk.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says President Barack Obama is following the situation closely.

The U.N. special representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said repeated acts of piracy off the Somali coast are threatening the region's stability, as well as delivery of humanitarian aid. Experts say a long-term solution would require stabilizing Somalia, which has been embroiled in tribal warfare since 1991.

Greek ship escapes pirate attack

European officials say at least one Greek-owned cargo ship Thursday escaped a pirate attack.
U.S. officials say they are working to free the American captain of a cargo ship being held hostage by pirates on a life boat off the coast of Somalia.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.