Four American cruisers killed after their boat was hijacked
Four American sailors aboard a hijacked yacht, S/V Quest, were shot and killed by their pirate captors on Tuesday near Somalia. The shootings occurred as U.S. forces were negotiating for the release of hostages Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle.
Four Navy warships had been trailing the S/V Quest for approximately three days, following her capture off the coast of Oman on February 18. The fatal confrontation began at about 1:00 EST when the pirates reportedly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S.S. Sterett, leading American forces to board the captured yacht. “As [U.S. forces] responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” Central Command said in a statement. “Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds.”
Two pirates were killed in the confrontation and 13 were detained, in addition to two pirates already in American custody. U.S. forces found the remains of two other pirates aboard the yacht. In total, 19 pirates were involved in the hijacking.
Quest owners and California natives Jean and Scott Adam had sailed aboard the 58-foot sloop since 2004. According to the couple’s website, one of their reasons for sailing was “finding homes for thousands of Bibles, which have been donated through grants and gifts, as we travel from place to place.”
Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, natives of Seattle, Washington, had joined the Adams in India. The four had been traveling as part of a Blue Water Rallies flotilla for security, but had broken off from the group before the attack.
In a statement, Blue Water Rallies said it was “stunned and devastated” by the killings. “Although yachtsmen have been discouraged from sailing through this area for some time, it is a hard decision when the only other choices are to sail around the stormy, dangerous seas off South Africa, leave the yacht in the Far East, put it on an expensive cargo ship, or to sail back across the Pacific which presents more weather challenges and difficulties,” the statement read.
Pirate attacks have plagued ships off the coast of Somalia for years. International counterpiracy forces have had some success creating a protected shipping corridor in the Gulf of Aden. Recently, however, pirates have begun to extend their reach into the open sea, sometimes using larger “mother ships” to travel more than 1,000 nautical miles off shore. The International Maritime Bureau estimates that Somali pirates are currently holding 712 hostages captive aboard 33 vessels. Of these, all but one—a South African yacht hijacked in 2010—are commercial vessels, according to the New York Times.
These pirates often seek huge payouts to release prisoners, as seen in the case of British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were held hostage for 388 days after their yacht was hijacked in October 2009. They were released only after friends and family paid a large ransom.
Just last week, Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison for the April 2009 hijacking of American cargo ship Maersk Alabama. In that case, the ship’s crew was rescued in a Navy Seal operation that killed the three other hijackers.
The U.S. government responded quickly to these most recent shootings. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement condemning the killing, adding that the “deplorable act firmly underscores the need for continued international progress toward confronting the shared security challenge posed by piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa.”
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