WASHINGTON — U.S. Defence Department officials say the cargo ship captain being held by Somali pirates briefly escaped but was recaptured.


Captain Richard Phillips, an American, jumped over the side of the small lifeboat where he has been held for two days and began swimming.


The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Phillips was retaken by the pirates after he jumped from the boat around midnight in the open ocean off the Somali coast.


A U.S. navy ship patrolling nearby was able to see Phillips moving around and talking after his return to the pirate’s boat.


The officials say they do not think Phillips was harmed in the incident.

A Somali in contact with a pirate leader says the captors of a U.S. sea captain want a ransom and are ready to kill him if attacked.

The Somali, who helped negotiate a ransom paid last year to pirates who seized a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks, spoke Friday on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

He says he has spoken with a pirate leader on the ground in Somalia who is co-ordinating action involving the lifeboat adrift in the Indian Ocean where Phillips is being held.

He says the plan is to get the hostage to shore to negotiate from a better position.