Officials: Somali Pirates Kill 4 American Hostages

Amid negotiations between Somali pirates and American military officers aboard vessels trailing a hijacked yacht, four American hostages were killed.

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A tragic end on a yacht in the Indian Ocean this morning. According to U.S. officials, Somali pirates gunned down four Americans who were taken hostage last week. It is the first time Americans have died in a Somali pirate raid.

U.S. warships were shadowing the yacht, trying to negotiate the Americans' release.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Nairobi.

FRANK LANGFITT: Jean and Scott Adam were from Marina del Rey, California. They'd been sailing around the world more than six years distributing Bibles. But last week off the coast of Oman, pirates seized their 50-foot plus sailboat and began heading for the Somali coast.

U.S. warships, including a destroyer, the USS Starrett, began shadowing the yacht called the Quest. Admiral Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, picks up the story from there.

Admiral MARK FOX (Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet): At 8 o'clock this morning local time, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the Quest, by the pirates, towards the Starrett. Immediately thereafter, gunfire also erupted inside the cabin of the Quest.

Several pirates appeared on deck and moved up to the bow with their hands in the air in surrender.

LANGFITT: When U.S. Special Forces boarded the yacht, they said they found the Adams and two fellow American sailors dead or dying. The other sailors were identified as Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, both of Seattle, Washington.

Admiral Fox also said they found two pirates who had already been killed. He emphasized that U.S. Special Forces did not shoot those pirates, and had not tried to launch a rescue.

Adm. FOX: There were ongoing negotiations that had continued for a number of days, and all I can tell you factually is that there were two dead pirates when we came on board the vessel.

LANGFITT: Somali pirates rarely murder hostages. They're widely viewed as rational if ruthless businessmen. Today, Somali pirates hold 31 vessels and nearly 700 people, according to the European Union.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Nairobi.

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