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Somali pirates were rushed by Special Forces when gunfire was heard, officials say

Scott and Jean Adam in an undated photo. Dramatic details emerged Tuesday morning about the attempt by U.S. Special Forces to try to rescue a Southern California yachting couple and another couple taken hostage by Somali pirates.

The pirates were in radio contact with the U.S. guided missile destroyer Sterett, the closest U.S. ship, when gunfire was heard.

As a U.S. Special Forces team -- Navy SEALs -- rushed to board a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired by the pirates at the Sterett .

All four hostages had been shot by the pirates and killed, officials said.

Adm. Mark Fox, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region, said he had no details of the negotiations with the pirates and declined to comment when asked if the U.S. had planned to prevent the hostages from being taken ashore if the yacht reached Somalia.

After the grenade was fired at the Sterett, several pirates came on deck with their hands raised, as if trying to surrender, Fox said. The gunfire erupted on board almost immediately. But U.S. officers said it was not known whether the hostages had made an escape attempt or whether disagreements among the pirates prompted the firing.

“I can presume inside the vessel there was a lot of small-arms fire,” Fox said, but he noted that the Special Forces team did not have to fight its way onto the yacht.

As the Special Forces team cleared the vessel, it discovered two pirates who already were dead. Another two were killed by U.S. personnel, one by gunfire and one by a knife, Fox said.

The American boaters who were killed were Jean and Scott Adam of Southern California and Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle of Seattle. None of the U.S. forces were injured.

Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle The four ships that had been shadowing the Quest were the carrier Enterprise, guided missile cruiser Leyte Gulf, and guided missile destroyers Sterett and Bulkeley. The four were in the region to support anti-piracy efforts and missions involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to U.S. Central Command.

The bodies of the Americans are now aboard the Enterprise.

The U.S. is part of an anti-piracy coalition based in Bahrain with ships from several countries. Piracy off Somalia’s east coast has plagued shipping for several years, with ships held for ransom.

In late 2009, U.S. officials noted that the pirates extended the range of their attacks to the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia’s north coast. The pirates are also ranging farther out to sea, 600 miles in some cases. 

The Sterett, whose home port is San Diego, is named for Andrew Sterett, who was captain of the U.S. schooner Enterprise during the Barbary Wars of 1801 when the U.S. fought with pirates off North Africa over their demand of tribute from ships in the Mediterranean.


Somali pirate drama ends with death of American hostages

Killing of American couples marks grim escalation for Somali pirates

Bodies of Southern California couple killed by pirates now aboard U.S. aircraft carrier

-- Tony Perry in San Diego and David S. Cloud in Washington

Upper photo: Scott and Jean Adam in an undated photo. Credit: svquest.com

Lower photo: Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle on June 11, 2005. Credit: Joe Grande / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (18)

They may be in a better situation now than the rest of us are.

Hmmm... I think this is a damn shame, and while I support the USN, I am guessing this could have been handled without loss of life. I would love to see a coalition go in and start removing boats from Somalia to prevent these excrusions that are now 240 miles from Somali ports...

These folks did not deserve this. As for merchants ships a gun exchange program through the navy would be an idea. In international waters short of leaving the port. You get the weapons. Turn them in just short of entry of your port destination. This way you can protect yourself. While port agents certify your safe return. Maintaining their gun laws in their respective ports of entry. Simple and easy. How many more lives till this program is in place? I thought this, not you hillary clinton, or dumb governments of our globe.

private ships too should have the right to defend themselves.

That's very sad. My condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed.

It is very sad to think of the chess moves that might have led to the American sailors' freedom. But we'll never know and, meanwhile, these pirates have to be stopped. The best way to accept the fate of the four American sailors is to put yourself in their place. Wouldn't you want U.S. special forces to be there and to make an attempt to rescue you? Imagine the pride and hope they must have had at the end, knowing their country was there for them. Death is a pill better swallowed in the patriotic arms of your country.

It's time to get tough on those thugs who are referred to as pirates. Engage in interdiction and operate under the assumption that if one is Somali, in a boat, and in possession of automatic weapons (anything other than handguns) or RPGs, they are a pirate and take them into custody. Even better, return to the old practice of trial and execution. The pirates have no rights as far as I'm concerned.

Reports from a military blog said SEAL snipers had opened fire first, killing two pirates with head shots, similar to the incident last year, but in this case the sniper fire ended in tragedy. The pirates had said that any sign of attack by the US would cause them to execute the hostages, which they did, and the SEALs then rushed the yacht.

A question for the Navy is whether their use of force sealed the fate of the hostages, and if the escalation we are seeing will result in more bloodshed, since the pirates have up to now been mostly non-violent, seeking ransom money over violence.

please don't second guess these Navy Seals - in doing so you display ignorance while dishonoring the very best we have

Agree that the loss of these people's lives is a shame. I think that we should reserve judgement on the militaries role till the investigation is complete. Should be done by the FBI since these were US citizens. The legal system is failing. The problem with pirates is that that there are no justice systems willing to take on the burden of trying them and many don't have legal authority unless the pirates attack their paticular countries flaged vehicle. Many times these miliatry vessels have stopped pirates and seen them throw their weapons overboard and can't do anything due to a lack of evidence. Also remember that the military is not a part of the justice deptartment and I haven't seen too many DOJ ships off the coast of Somalia. International law isn't adequate, Diplomacy won't work on a lawless country where the "government" doesn't control but a few sqaure blocks of Mogadishu, Treasury can't sanction accounts for accounts and banks that don't exist in a country without a monetary system. Once the pirates taste 9.5 million / ship for some of their big hauls, its hard for me to imagine that they will go back to fishing for a living.

Typical L.A. Times Bubble Machine forum.

Now we should set the pirates up. Use fake ships loaded with SEALS and when the pirates try and capture the ship guess what? Bang Bang your are one dead pirate.

In Reply to inbox1909 : Life is full of very tough questions. The US have a long standing policy of not dealing with thugs like these. I don't trust "military blogs" as they're just a bad as the retired officers who work the TV stations. If these tools were worth a crap they would still be working for the military or a think tank. The military will likley review their role, but more importantly, I suggest that sailors review theirs since they put their own lives in harms way by going to the pirates area. Regardless, the policies on dealing with pirates need to be reviewed. What is being done by all elements of government has made no impact to the situation in Somalia. We need a real policy on Somalia.

I think the simple fact that these uneducated, ignorant pirates show zero fear of the United States to do this kind of thing shows how little our government is doing to curtail this kind of activity.

Send the message to Somali's that if they attack American's, they die.


There is no excuse for any sailor to ignore the facts of years of marauding piracy in that area of the Gulf of Aden and travel there without military escort.

Most Angelenos don't visit Skid Row after dark by themselves. Why do the same in a far more dangerous area in the Indian Ocean? Either you go there in the company of the 5th fleet, or you don't go at all.

The more you negotiate the higher th pirate population will grow. Navy seals are not miracle workers. Negotiation is synonomous with capitualtion to a pirate's ear. My bet is that comments calling for more negotiations come from the same people who would decry the inability of American forces to prevent pirates from taking their captors and bounty back to port. If there are to be negotiations let it start with this: If you don't try to take the ship and captors back to port, and if none of the captors are harmed while you have possesion of them, we won't kill you.

Viet Vet

So sad that these innocent people were murdered, even more tragic that any of the pirates survived this ordeal.

They should all have been dealt with appropiately there on the high seas, never to see a court room

Would some people be less judgemental of our military's handling of this situation if any of the Seals had been killed? I read a lot of "second guessing" going on by people whom were not there. Although it was very admiral of the two couples trying to spread the word of GOD,they knew the risks involved and "chose" to put their lives in danger for what they believed in. But, unknowingly, put the lives of many others in danger also.
It's a shame that we can't go by the old rules of the open seas and have captured pirates "Walk The Plank".


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