A California couple who were kidnapped last week by Somali pirates after seizing their yacht in the Indian Ocean, have been killed by their captors. The pirates also killed two other American hostages, it was reported today.
|Scott and Jean Adam|
Jean and Scott Adam, former residents of Newport Beach, were fatally shot late Monday aboard their 58-foot sailboat Quest off the coast of Somalia, authorities said, according to City News Service (CNS), http://lakeforest-ca.patch.com
Two of the pirates were killed, and 13 were captured during a rescue attempt, according to various news reports. Also killed were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle.
The Adams, a retired couple, had been sailing around the world for more than seven years in their yacht. According to the couple’s website, they had been traveling around the world distributing Bibles.
CNS says four Navy ships had been following the Quest after it was seized by the pirates, and negotiations had been under way for the release of the hostages when the talks apparently broke down.
On its website, CNN reported that the four sailors had been traveling with yachts participating in the Blue Water Rally since their departure from Phuket, Thailand, rally organizers said Sunday.
The group, which organizes long-distance group cruises, said the S/V Quest broke off on February 15 after leaving Mumbai, India, to take a different route, CNN said.
In an online article, ABC News reporters Jim Sciutto, Martha Raddatz and Sarah Netter say the Americans were sailing the world on a Christian mission to distribute bibles when they were ambushed Feb. 18 by pirates in dangerous waters nearly 300 miles off the Somali coast.
U.S. forces and at least one Navy warship that had been tracking the yacht for three days and negotiating with the captors responded to gunfire at approximately 1 a.m. ET Tuesday morning.
ABC News reported that American military forces killed two pirates aboard the vessel when they responded to gunfire that was believed to have killed the American yachters. The American forces captured 13 pirates and found the remains of two additional pirates. It is now believed that 19 pirates were involved in the kidnapping.
Nina Crossland, a niece of Phyllis Macay, said today at a news conference that she had been told her aunt was wounded but alive when the U.S. military boarded the Quest, but died shortly after. Officials have confirmed that two of the Americans onboard the Quest were still alive when the military found them.
“It’s a shock,” Crossland said. “My family is trying to come together to deal with this tragedy.”
The ABC News article stated that Crossland said her aunt was merely a sailor on the boat and was not involved with passing out Bibles. The Adams were known to carry and distribute Bibles along their journeys, according to reports.
ABC News cited authorities who said U.S. forces responded to a rapidly deteriorating situation onboard the Quest and thought immediate action was necessary to save the lives of the hostages.
According to the authorities, the pirates fired an RPG at the USS Sterett, the American ship most closely monitoring the yacht. At the time the first shots were heard on board the Quest, the Americans were negotiating with the pirates and had two of them onboard the Sterett.
ABC News said it was unclear what the negotiations covered, but a military official said the pirates were attempting to make their way back to the Somali coast. According to one official, the killings of the Americans onboard came as a surprise since the pirates’ demeanor had been described as “calm.”
A military official said small arms fire was detected by the US forces on the yacht and that it was not directed at the USS Sterett.
It was only after the gunfire was detected, according to the military official, that U.S. special ops forces boarded the Quest and engaged the pirates. Until weapons were fired at the Quest, U.S. forces did not assault the yacht, according to the official.
A timeline released today noted that one of the two pirates killed by special operations forces below deck was killed by a knife. The other was shot.
“As [U.S. Forces] responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors. Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds,” according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
“We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest,” said Gen James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command commander.
ABC News said U.S. ships in the area engaged in monitoring the yacht included the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Bulkeley. The ships are deployed to the region to conduct maritime security operations and to provide support to operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.
ABC News also said that as the Adams approached the notoriously hostile waters off the Horn of Africa, they cut back using their radios and satellite systems so their location couldn’t be tracked by pirates, but they were still found.
The BBC on its website reported US Central Command said that negotiations were under way between the US Navy and the pirates, when the US forces heard gunfire coming from the Quest.
US Navy Seal Special Forces sailors boarded the ship without firing a shot, then killed two pirates while they were taking control of the ship.
They discovered the four Americans shot. At least one — Ms Macay — was alive when the Seals boarded. The US Navy Seals attempted unsuccessfully to save the injured hostages, the military said according to the BBC report.
The BBC’s Correspondent Will Ross in Nairobi says the pirates’ telling of the encounter differs from the US Navy’s. The pirates report the US warship attacked first, killing two pirates, and the hostages were killed in retaliation.
According to the US military, four Navy warships — including an aircraft carrier — began tracking the hijacked vessel on Friday and were following it toward the Somali coast, hoping to prevent the pirates from disembarking with the hostages, the BBC said.
The BBC went on to report The White House said President Barack Obama on Saturday had authorized the use of force in the case of “an imminent threat” to the hostages. He was notified of the hostages’ deaths soon after they were killed, spokesman Jay Carney said.
The BBC added that on Tuesday, Navy officials told reporters that two pirates had boarded a naval vessel for negotiations when the pirate crew aboard the Quest fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their ship.
The grenade missed, and the US Navy sailors then heard gunfire aboard the Quest and dispatched the Navy Seal boarding party, which discovered the four Americans, the BBC said.
The US Navy captured 13 pirates, killed two — one with shots and another with a knife — and found the remains of two other pirates already dead about the vessel, the US military said, according to the BBC report.
The BBC stated it was unclear how they died.
According to the Adams’s website (www.svquest.com ) , the middle-aged couple set sail in 2002 on the 58-foot vessel, and in 2004 they embarked on a planned eight- to 10-year voyage around the world.
Before their capture, the sailors had crossed the Indian Ocean from Cochin, India, after calling at Phuket, Thailand and Sri Lanka. They hoped to disembark in Djibouti, then cross the Suez Canal before sailing to Crete in April.
The BBC reported that friends have described the Adams as adventure-seekers who were also driven by their Christian faith, at times distributing Bibles at ports of call.
The BBC article quotes Robert Johnston, who taught Scott Adam at Fuller Seminary in California, and who described the Adams as accomplished sailors.
“They were responsible planners, they knew there was the potential for problems and they tried to take precautions, but obviously something happened,” he said before the group were reported killed.
The BBC article says Ms Macay’s niece, Nina Crossland, told reporters her late aunt had planned ahead for the voyage.
“She was not haphazardly traveling around the ocean, loosely travelling around,” Ms Crossland said.
“My aunt was very adventurous. If this was something that was going to scare her she would not be doing it.”
The BBC said pirates currently hold about 30 boats captured off the coast of Somalia, with a total of more than 600 hostages, according to the US Navy.