4 American hostages killed by pirates, US says

Nairobi, Feb 22 (AP) Four Americans taken hostage bySomali pirates off East Africa were shot and killed by theircaptors today, the US military said, marking the first time UScitizens have been killed in a wave of pirate attacks plaguingthe Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean for years.

US naval forces, who were trailing the Americans''captured yacht with four warships, quickly boarded the vesselafter hearing the gunfire and tried to provide lifesaving careto the Americans, but they died of their wounds, the USCentral Command said in a statement.

Two pirates died during the confrontation and 13 werecaptured and detained, the US Central Command said in astatement from Tampa, Fla. The remains of two other pirateswho were already dead for some time were also found.

The US military didn''t state how those two might havedied.

Negotiations had been under way to try to win therelease of the two couples on the pirated vessel Quest whenthe gunfire was heard, the US military said.

The Quest was the home of Jean and Scott Adam, acouple from California who had been sailing around the worldsince December 2004 with a yacht full of Bibles. The two otherAmericans on board were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, ofSeattle, Washington.

"We express our deepest condolences for the innocentlives callously lost aboard the Quest," said Gen James NMattis, US Central Command Commander.

In total the US said that 19 pirates were involved inthe hijacking of the Quest.

Only minutes before the military said the fourAmericans had died, a Somali pirate told The Associated Pressby phone that if the yacht was attacked, "the hostages will bethe first to go.""Some pirates have even suggested rigging the yachtwith land mines and explosives so as the whole yacht explodeswith the first gunshot," said the pirate, who gave his name asAbdullahi Mohamed, who claimed to be a friend of the piratesholding the four Americans.

Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, the head of Dryad MaritimeIntelligence, said he was confounded by the turn of events.

"We have heard threats against the lives of Americans beforebut it strikes me as being very, very unusual why they wouldkill hostages outright," he said, adding that the pirates mustrealise that killing Americans would invite a militaryresponse.

The military said US forces have been monitoring theQuest for about three days, since shortly after the pirateattack on Friday. Four Navy warships were involved, includingan aircraft carrier. (AP)

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