The US Central Command released a statement this morning announcing that the four Americans whose yacht had been hijacked by Somali pirates on Friday have been killed. The Navy had been trailing the vessel, the S/V Quest for approximately three days and boarded the ship after hearing gunfire. "Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds," Central Command said in a statement.
Central Command believes 19 pirates were involved in the hijacking of the ship, reporting that fifteen pirates were taken into US mililtary custody. The navy reported that two pirates were killed in the confrontation while two other pirates were found dead aboard the ship. Four US warships had been used in response to the hijacking.
The yacht had been piloted by an American couple from Marina Del Rey, CA: Jean and Scott Adam, retirees who had been sailing the world for the past six years. They were with two other Americans, Phyllis Mackay and Robert A. Riggle from Seattle, and had been sailing as part of a larger group but split off to take an alternate route to Salalah, Oman. The Adams had been sharing their experiences traveling on a blog.
Reuters managed to get a pirate with some connection to the hijackers on the telephone:
"Our colleagues called us this morning, that they were being attacked by a U.S. warship," a pirate who identified himself as Mohamud told Reuters. "The U.S. warship shot in the head two of my comrades who were on the deck of the yacht by the time they alerted us," Mohamud said. "This is the time we ordered the other comrades inside yacht to react -- kill the four Americans because there was no other alternative -- then our line got cut."
"The killing of those four Americans and our comrades is a fair game that has started. Everybody will react if his life is in danger. We should not agree to be killed and let the hostages be freed," a pirate called Hussein told Reuters from Hobyo, another Somali coastal pirate haven.
The exact order of events aboard the ship is still unclear.
As the New York Times reported on Saturday: "The American Navy has pleaded with ship owners to stick to designated shipping lanes when passing through the Arabian Sea, where pirates continue to strike with impunity, despite the presence of dozens of warships." Ransoms, once in the hundreds of thousands of dollars have reached sums of $4 or $5 million, the Times reports.
Two notable recent cases include the the Navy SEAL's shooting of three pirates who were holding American Merchant marine captain hostage, and the conviction of the fourth pirate, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse to 33 years in prison last week in New York.
A couple from London on a similar yacht trip, Paul and Rachel Chandler, were taken hostage in 2009 and held for over a year before friends and acquaintances put up around $1 million in ransom.