Admiral Provides Details of Somali Piracy Killings

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 — Four pirates are dead and 15 are in cus­tody, but not before they killed four Amer­i­cans in the blood­i­est pira­cy inci­dent in recent his­to­ry, the com­man­der of U.S. Naval Forces Cen­tral Com­mand told reporters in a con­fer­ence call today.
Navy Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, who also com­mands the Navy’s 5th Fleet, said the pirates shot Scott and Jean Adams of Cal­i­for­nia and Phyl­lis Mack­ay and Bob Rig­gle of Wash­ing­ton state. The sur­face ves­sel Quest was sail­ing around the world when the Soma­lis hijacked it off the coast of Oman.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney told reporters on Air Force One that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma autho­rized the use of force if there was an immi­nent threat to the hostages. He said the pres­i­dent was informed of their deaths at 4:42 this morn­ing.

“The loss of our fel­low Amer­i­cans is a tragedy,” Fox said from his head­quar­ters in Man­a­ma, Bahrain.

The admi­ral gave a time­line of the action. Pirates cap­tured the ves­sel about 190 nau­ti­cal miles south­east of Masir­ah Island, Oman, Feb. 18. Four U.S. Navy war­ships respond­ed: the air­craft car­ri­er USS Enter­prise, the guid­ed-mis­sile cruis­er USS Leyte Gulf and the guid­ed-mis­sile destroy­ers USS Sterett and USS Bulke­ley.

The ships found the ves­sel and made con­tact with the pirates via bridge-to-bridge radio, and began a series of nego­ti­a­tions. Yes­ter­day, two pirates board­ed the USS Sterett to con­tin­ue nego­ti­a­tions.

“At 8 a.m. this morn­ing … a rock­et-pro­pelled grenade was fired by the pirates from the Quest toward the Sterett,” Fox said. “Imme­di­ate­ly there­after, gun­fire erupt­ed from inside the cab­in of the Quest. Sev­er­al pirates appeared on the deck of the Quest and moved up to the bow with their hands in the air in sur­ren­der.”

U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces closed in on the Quest in small boats and board­ed the yacht. “They dis­cov­ered that all four hostages had been shot by their cap­tors,” Fox said. The ser­vice mem­bers took imme­di­ate steps to pro­vide med­ical care, but the four Amer­i­cans died of their wounds. The board­ing par­ty also found two dead pirates aboard the ves­sel.

The spe­cial oper­a­tions forces did not fire weapons dur­ing the board­ing, Fox said.

“While clear­ing the ves­sel, two addi­tion­al pirates were killed,” the admi­ral said. “The remain­ing 15 sus­pect­ed pirates are in U.S. cus­tody.”

Fox said two addi­tion­al pirates were killed as the spe­cial oper­a­tors cleared the boat. One was killed with a pis­tol, the oth­er in a knife fight, the admi­ral said. There were no casu­al­ties to ser­vice mem­bers or dam­age to Navy ships. The Navy and the FBI are inves­ti­gat­ing the inci­dent.

Fox said the per­pe­tra­tors will be brought to jus­tice.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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