Pirates kill four hostages despite negotiations with US military
Published 23/02/2011 | 05:00
SOMALI pirates murdered four American hostages on board their yacht before it was taken over by the US military yesterday.
The pirates were all either killed or captured, according to the US Central Command.
"While negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of four American hostages, US forces responded to gunfire aboard the pirated vessel (S/V) Quest," according to the statement.
The boarding team "discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors", and though they were found alive and first aid applied, they soon died, the release said.
Vice admiral Mark Fox, commander of the US Navy 5th Fleet, told reporters at the Pentagon that the boarding party was US special operations forces. They met no resistance at first. However, during the search of the vessel they killed two pirates, one in a knife fight and the other by gunshot, and they found two others already dead, Mr Fox said. The navy took 13 pirates into custody.
The US commandos were launched in small boats after the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a US warship 600 yards away and gunfire was heard, Mr Fox said.
US President Barack Obama authorised the use of force against the pirates earlier this month "in the case of an imminent threat" to the hostages.
The Americans aboard the Quest were Scott and Jean Adam, who owned the yacht, from Marina del Rey, California, and Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle of Washington state.
Last night US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the deaths as "deplorable". She said it underscored the need for stability in Somalia.
Two pirates had come aboard the USS Sterett for talks.
"There were ongoing negotiations that had continued for a number of days and this morning, with absolutely no warning, is when the rocket-propelled grenade was fired," Mr Fox said.
The 13 captured pirates and two who were negotiating were in US custody. The pirates were armed with a grenade launcher, AK-47 rifles, and small arms, Mr Fox said.
He said the plan is to bring them "to a judicial process".
The navy had been tracking the pirated yacht since February 18, when it was spotted by a Royal Danish Navy ship off the coast of Oman, Mr Fox said.
The pirates appeared to have launched from a "mother ship" that allows them to operate far from Somalia's shore, Mr Fox said.
This is a development in pirate operations that is becoming a "game-changer", Mr Fox said.
The Quest hijacking was the 11th this year in the region.