Somali pirates add ammo, men to ships after 4 Americans are killed

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A dispute among the pirates who hijacked a yacht off of Somalia appears to be the cause the the fire fight which left four Americans dead.

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By JASON STRAZIUSO and MALKHADIR M. MUHUMED
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 12:29 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Pirates in Somalia said Wednesday they are ferrying ammunition and men to the 30 hijacked vessels still under their control, and they threatened to kill more captives following the violent end to a hostage standoff that left four Americans dead.

The U.S. military said that 15 pirates detained after the Americans were slain Tuesday could face trial in the United States.

The military, FBI and Justice Department are working on the next steps for those pirates, said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Florida. The Somalis are currently being held on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which is in the waters off East Africa.

A pirate aboard the hijacked yacht Quest on Tuesday fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship that had responded to last Friday's hijacking. Then gunfire broke out aboard the yacht. When Navy special forces reached the Quest, they found the four American hostages had been shot and killed.

The FBI is investigating the killings of Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington, and Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, near Los Angeles, who had made their home aboard their 58-foot yacht Quest since December 2004.

The Adams handed out Bibles around the world, but a pirate who gave his name only as Hassan told The Associated Press on Wednesday that played no factor. He said the pirates reacted violently after the U.S. forces blocked the yacht's path.

"We had plans to either take the hostages to the inland mountains or to move onto other hijacked ships because we knew that the U.S. Navy was serious about carrying out a rescue operation," Hassan said. "The hostages pleaded with us not to harm them or take them to dangerous places. They cried when we captured them ... and asked us to release them because they were too old and couldn't endure captivity."

The killings came less than a week after a Somali pirate was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That hijacking ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship's American captain.

Pirates reacted angrily to the sentencing and have since vowed that they will kill hostages before being captured during military raids and being sent to face trial.

Pirates once were believed to be disgruntled and financially motivated Somali fishermen angry that international trawlers were illegally fishing Somalia's waters. Now criminal gangs dominate the piracy trade, and have begun systematically torturing hostages, including locking them in freezers.

"What we're seeing is that because of the business model the pirates have adopted is so lucrative that you're now getting organized criminal gangs involved as opposed to fishermen who just decided to have a go at piracy," said Wing Commander Paddy O'Kennedy, spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force.

"Criminal gangs are more violent than your average fisherman who's turned to piracy," O'Kennedy said.


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