Pirates on a German ship with 24 foreign hostages said on Saturday they had returned to the Somali coast after failing to locate the scene of a standoff involving an American captive on a drifting lifeboat.
Pirates had hoped to use the hijacked 20,000-tonne container vessel, Hansa Stavanger, as a "shield" to reach fellow pirates holding American ship captain Richard Phillips far out in the Indian Ocean. U.S. naval ships are close to the lifeboat.
"We have come back to Haradheere coast. We could not locate the lifeboat," one pirate on the German ship, who identified himself as Suleiman said. "We almost got lost because we could not find the bearing of the lifeboat."
Five Germans are believed among those on the Stavanger. The ship's return to the coast lowers the stakes somewhat in a high seas standoff since Wednesday between the four-man gang holding Phillips and the US navy which has several warships in the area of the lifeboat.
US negotiators are trying to persuade the pirates to release Phillips. They want a $2 million ransom plus safe passage back to land, their friends say.