Somali Pirates Kill 4 Americans on Hijacked Ship

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 — Soma­li pirates killed all four Amer­i­cans they had held hostage aboard a sail­ing ves­sel in the Indi­an Ocean this morn­ing, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand offi­cials announced.
U.S. offi­cials were nego­ti­at­ing with the pirates for the safe return of the cap­tured Amer­i­cans when the mur­ders took place, offi­cials said.

Cent­com offi­cials said that in the midst of nego­ti­a­tions, U.S. forces respond­ed to gun­fire aboard the S/V Quest. When the forces reached the boat, offi­cials said, they dis­cov­ered all four hostages had been shot by their cap­tors. Despite imme­di­ate steps to pro­vide life-sav­ing care, all four hostages ulti­mate­ly died of their wounds.

Dur­ing the board­ing, the Soma­li pirates fired on the U.S. forces, who killed two pirates and cap­tured 13 oth­ers. U.S. forces already had cap­tured two oth­er pirates, and the ser­vice­mem­bers board­ing the Quest found the remains of two oth­er pirates.

“In total, it is believed 19 pirates were involved in the hijack­ing of the S/V Quest,” Cent­com offi­cials said.

“We express our deep­est con­do­lences for the inno­cent lives cal­lous­ly lost aboard the Quest,” said Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, Centcom’s com­man­der.

The pirates seized the boat Feb. 18 off the coast of Oman. Soma­li pirates -– often oper­at­ing from moth­er ships far out to sea — have cap­tured scores of ships and gen­er­al­ly have held the ships and crews for ran­som. News reports indi­cate Soma­li pirates cur­rent­ly hold 29 ships with more than 660 hostages.

Pira­cy in the region occurred orig­i­nal­ly off of Somalia’s east coast for sev­er­al years. In August 2009, the pirates extend­ed their attacks to the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia’s north coast. The pirates since have ranged far­ther out to sea -– up to 600 miles –- and now affect more than a mil­lion square miles in the Gulf of Aden, the west Indi­an Ocean and the Red Sea.

The Unit­ed States has worked close­ly with region­al and inter­na­tion­al part­ners to attack the prob­lem. In this case, Amer­i­can forces close­ly mon­i­tored and tailed the Quest. Four U.S. Navy war­ships made up a response force ded­i­cat­ed to recov­er­ing the S/V Quest: the air­craft car­ri­er USS Enter­prise, the guid­ed-mis­sile cruis­er USS Leyte Gulf, the guid­ed-mis­sile destroy­ers USS Sterett and USS Bulke­ley.

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

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