The Navy's main objective will be to stop the pirates' lifeboat from linking up with the mother ships, which is a formidable challenge since the Navy vessels do not maneuver easily, and they want to avoid using force.
A Somali who helped negotiate a ransom last year for a Ukranian freighter loaded with Russian tanks and other weapons told the AP that the strategy for the lifeboat is being handled ashore. They want to be able to bring Phillips to Somalia and then negotiate his ransom, the Somali negotiator told the AP.
A Somali pirate identified as Mohamed Samaw in the pirate stronghold in central Eyl told the AP that among the ships heading to their colleagues' rescue was a Taiwanese fishing vessel seized Monday and the German cargo ship Hansa Stavanger, seized earlier this month.
"They had asked us for reinforcement, and we have already sent a good number of well-equipped colleagues, who were holding a German cargo ship," said another pirate who asked that only his first name, Badow, be used to protect him from reprisals.
"We are not intending to harm the captain, so that we hope our colleagues would not be harmed as long as they hold him," Badow said.
Garrett told ABC News that it's quite possible that the pirates chew Khat, an addictive stimulant popular in east Africa. With the withdrawal symptoms come irritability, restlessness and anxiety, which can complicate negotiations.
As American forces continued their standoff, French forces assaulted other Somali pirates who had hijacked a yacht called Tanit on Saturday with two French couples and a 3-year-old boy aboard.
The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who gave the order for the attack, said that one hostage was killed in the raid along with two pirates. The child was unharmed, but it was unclear who fired the shot that killed the boy's father, French officials said.
The three pirates who were captured will be brought to France to await trial.
Negotiators repeatedly offered the pirates ransom, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said during a press conference, but the pirates rejected it. Missing a loved one, the freed hostages are now safely on a French Navy ship headed towards Dijbouti.
The death of one French hostage points to the danger and volatility of rescue operations against pirates in Somali waters.
Elsewhere, a Norwegian chemical tanker, the Bow Asir, that was captured in late March was freed after pirates collected a $2 million ransom, Defense officials said.
Back in Phillips' hometown of Underhill, Vt., the captain's wife, Andrea, has helped put up yellow ribbons, but has remained silent about her husband's plight. She issued a statement today through the shipping Maersk thanking neighbors and the nation for its outpouring of support.
"We have felt the compassion of the world through your concern for Richard. My husband is a strong man and we will remain strong for him. We ask that you do the same," Mrs. Phillips said.
On Thursday, a neighbor indicated that Andrea Phillips was feeling the stress of the hostage drama.
"She's done very well under the circumstances, but right now she's just under enormous strain," said neighbor Michael Willard. He said Andrea Phillips was "overwhelmed" and "upset enough about her husband and his situation."