Four Americans who were taken hostage by Somali pirates on their yacht February 18 off East Africa were shot and killed by their captors, Tuesday, February 22.
The four Americans killed were Jean and Scott Adam, from Southern California, and Phyllis Mackay and Robert Riggle, from Seattle. This is the first time U.S. citizens have been killed in pirate attacks in years.
A member of a U.S. special operations force killed one of the pirates with a knife as he went inside the yacht, said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of U.S. naval forces for the Central Command.
“We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest,” said Gen. James N. Mattis, United States Central Command Commander, said in a statement.
“At approximately 1 a.m. EST today, while negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of four American hostages, U.S. 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 alive, they died of their wounds despite first aid, the release said.
Vice Admiral Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, told reporters at the Pentagon by telephone from Bahrain that the boarding party was U.S. special operations forces and 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.
President Barack Obama on Feb. 19 authorized the use of force against the pirates, according to his press secretary, Jay Carney.
The Americans aboard the Quest were Scott and Jean Adam, who owned the yacht, from Marina Del Ray, California, and Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle of Washington state, Fox said.
The deadly end came after negotiations failed. On Monday, two pirates had come aboard the USS Sterett for talks. Added to 13 captured alive today, 15 pirates were in U.S. custody. The pirates were armed with a grenade launcher, AK-47 rifles, and small arms, he said.
Fox said the pirates are in Navy custody and the plan is to bring them “to a judicial process and hold them accountable for their activities.”
The Navy has been tracking the pirated yacht since Feb. 18, when it was spotted by a Royal Danish Navy ship off the coast of Oman, Fox said. “We have seen a growing problem here in terms of the pirate activity off the coast of Somalia,” Fox said.
Pirate activity in gulf of Aden has “actually gone down,” but pirates are going longer distances, up to 1,400 nautical miles from Somalia, Fox said.