Pirates hijack 4 Americans; US mulls responses

Last Updated: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 23:19

Nairobi: The United States government today
said it was assessing possible responses after Somali pirates
hijacked a yacht with four Americans on board in the Arabian
sea off the coast of Somalia.

Pirates hijacked the yacht Quest yesterday, 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.

That case ended in a spectacular rescue when Navy
sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship`s captain,
Richard Phillips.

The Quest is the home of Jean and Scott Adam, a couple
who has been sailing around the world since December 2004,
according to a website the Adams keep.

A US military spokesman at Central Command in Florida
said: "We`re aware of the situation and we continue to monitor
it."

Matt Goshko, a spokesman at the US Embassy in Nairobi,
Kenya, which oversees Somalia, said preliminary reports
indicate there are four US citizens aboard the Quest.

"All relevant US agencies are monitoring the situation,
working to develop further information, assess options and
possible responses," Goshko said.

Pirates have increased attacks off the coast of East
Africa in recent years despite an international flotilla of
warships dedicated to protecting vessels and stopping the
pirate assaults.

After the Maersk Alabama was hijacked in April 2009, Navy
sharpshooters on the fantail of the USS Bainbridge fired on
pirates holding Phillips, the ship`s captain, killing two of
them.

The only pirate to survive that US rescue was Abdiwali
Abdiqadir Muse, who was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

The best known case of Westerners being held hostage in
Somalia was that of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a British couple
held for 388 days. The two, who were captured while sailing in
their private yacht, were released in November.

US officials will likely try to prevent the Adams` yacht
from reaching Somalia, where their options to rescue the
Americans become more limited.

The Adams website chronicles the couple`s travels over
the last seven years, from El Salvador and Panama in 2005 to
Fiji in 2007 and Singapore and Cambodia last year. They most
recently sailed from Thailand to Sri Lanka and India.

Their website said they were on their way to Oman when
they were taken. Djibouti, the tiny East African country
directly north of Somalia, had been next on their list. A
satellite tracking system the couple uses showed them docked
in Mumbai, India on Feb 1.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 23:19

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