U.S. forces responded to gunfire aboard the yacht Quest at approximately 1 a.m. Tuesday, but discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors. Despite attempts to save their lives, all four hostages died of their wounds.
During the skirmish, two of the pirates were killed by U.S. forces, while two others were discovered to already be dead. Thirteen others were captured and are being detained.
The Quest was taking part in an international yacht race called the Blue Water Rally, but had left the race on February 15 to embark on an independent course from India to Oman. The yacht was hijacked on Friday afternoon, off the coast of Oman. The pirates entered the yacht directly from their mother ship.
U.S. forces were reportedly monitoring the yacht. Vice Admiral Mark Fox explained the sequence of events. Two pirates boarded U.S. Naval Ship U.S.S. Sterett on Monday to negotiate the release of the hostages. On Tuesday morning, pirates onboard the Quest fired a rocket at the U.S.S. Sterett, missing it. Immediately following the failed attack, gunfire could be heard inside the cabin of the Quest.
“Several pirates appeared on deck and moved up to the bow with their hands in the air in surrender,” stated Fox.
Immediately, soldiers from the U.S. Special Operations Forces boarded the ship, where they found the hostages, pirates, and those who had been killed. Some of the Americans were still alive when the SOF boarded the ship, but they died shortly afterward from their wounds.
According to Vice Admiral Fox, there was “absolutely no warning” before the hostage situation became deadly.
One senior military official said, “We did everything we could. But I don’t think our guys would see this as a good outcome.”
General James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command Commander, voiced his regrets: “We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest.”
Meanwhile, the pirates who have been taken in custody may go to Kenya for trial, if not the United States.
Ironically, the hijacking of Quest came two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship.
Responding to this particular incident, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the killings “deplorable” and used the occasion as a talking point to encourage international cooperation in fighting piracy in the waters near Africa, particularly as pirate attacks off the coast of East Africa have increased in recent years. Fox News indicates that pirates currently hold 30 ships and more than 660 hostages.
Until today's incident, pirate-related deaths averaged less than 10 per year.
Photo: Scott and Jean Adam shown in a Fox News video, in a photo courtesy of SVQuest.com