Four Americans whose yacht was hijacked by Somali pirates off Oman have been shot and killed, the first Americans to die in pirate attacks that began in Somali waters two decades ago and now have spread far out into the Indian Ocean.
About 1 a.m. Tuesday, the pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. warship, one of four shadowing S/V Quest. Simultaneously, crew on the warship heard shots fired aboard the Americans' 58-foot Davidson pilothouse sloop, according to the U.S. Central Command in Tampa.
U.S. forces boarded the boat and found that its owners, Scott and Jean Adam, of Marina del Rey, Calif., and friends Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle, of Seattle, had been shot by their captors.
The boarding team engaged the pirates, killing two and taking 13 captive, the military says. The team found two other pirates on the vessel who had died earlier. How they died was unclear. The military says U.S. forces also had two pirates serving as negotiators on one of its warships - for a total of 19 who had attacked the vessel four days earlier, on Feb. 18. The pirates were headed for the Somali coast to offload the hostages and hold them in the interior while they negotiated a ransom payment.
Negotiations to free the hostages were ongoing when the four were shot, the military says. Press reports say an FBI hostage negotiation team was involved.
Quest had been sailing with the Blue Water Rally - a group of cruisers voyaging in tandem - since December in Phuket, Thailand. The crew set off on their own to take a different route from Mumbai, India, to Salalah, Oman, according to information on the Blue Water Rallies website.
According to the Adams' website, which appeared to have been taken down this afternoon, they planned to sail from Sri Lanka through the Suez Canal to Crete in the Mediterranean, stopping in India, Oman and Djibouti along the way.
The couple were six years into an eight- to 10-year boat-based ministry voyage around the world. They were carrying Bibles, which they had been distributing to people they met along the way.
One "aspect of our travels is friendship evangelism - that is, finding homes for thousands of Bibles, which have been donated through grants and gifts, as we travel from place to place," their website says. "We'll show you what wonderful turn of events have occurred as a result of this endeavor."
According to Blue Water Rallies, Macay and Riggle "had already circumnavigated the world with our rally in 2007-2009 in Bob's yacht Gaia. They enjoyed it so much that they came back to do it again as crew on various rally yachts."