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Navy ship Sterett, named for pirate fighter, took lead in rescue attempt against Somali pirates

February 22, 2011 |  5:24 pm


The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Sterett, which took the lead in the failed U.S. attempt to rescue Americans from Somali pirates, is on its first active-duty cruise.

But it has pirate-hunting in its legacy. The ship is named for one of the Navy's heroes in the long-ago fight with Barbary Coast pirates.

As the U.S. Central Command sought to rescue four Americans held by Somali pirates this week, the Sterett was the closest of four Navy ships trailing the pirates.

Negotiators on the Sterett tried to talk the pirates into releasing the four. The two sides were reportedly at a stalemate over the pirates' demand for money. Then an argument apparently broke out among the pirates, leading to gunfire, in which two pirates were killed by other pirates.

The pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterett, which was about 600 yards away. The grenade missed its target, and U.S. personnel heard the gunshots aboard the hijacked yacht Quest.

Two boats of Navy SEALs launched toward the Quest and found the four hostages had been shot. Two were dead and two died minutes later despite medical intervention. The SEALs killed two pirates, one by gunfire, one in a knife fight.

The Sterett is named for Andrew Sterett, commander on the U.S. schooner Enterprise during the Barbary War of 1801 when the U.S. battled with pirates over their demand for tribute from ships on the Mediterranean.

Sterett's boldness in dealing with the pirates won him an honored spot in Navy history. The San Diego-based destroyer is the fourth Navy ship named for him.


Friends of California couple slain by Somali pirates mourn their loss

Somali pirates were rushed by Special Forces when gunfire was heard

Killing of Southern California couple marks grim escalation for Somali pirates

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Sterett.  Credit: U.S. Navy