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Talks over return of US captain collapse: report

world Updated: Apr 12, 2009 08:43 IST
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Negotiations over American captain Richard Phillips held hostage by Somali pirates aboard a small boat have collapsed after US officials insisted that the pirates be arrested after Phillips's return,

The New York Times

reported late Saturday.

Phillips has been held hostage since Wednesday when the container ship he commanded was attacked. The Maersk Alabama, a freighter carrying 5,000 tonnes of UN aid destined for African refugees, was intercepted by four pirates.

Citing unnamed Somali officials, the newspaper said the negotiations with a group of elders representing the pirates broke down hours after the pirates had fired on a small US Navy vessel that had tried to approach the lifeboat in the Indian Ocean, on which Phillips is held.

The vessel returned to a nearby Navy destroyer, the Bainbridge, after the pirates fired warning shots in the air, the paper reported, citing an unnamed US military official.

The Times quoted the official as saying the US ship did not return fire because it "did not want to escalate the situation."

State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler declined late Saturday to confirm or deny the report.