The U.S. military says four Americans have been killed by Somali pirates aboard their hijacked yacht in the Indian Ocean.
A statement from U.S. Central Command says U.S. forces were trying to negotiate the hostages’ release Tuesday when they heard gunfire aboard the yacht, theSV Quest.
The military said a reaction force boarded the hijacked vessel and discovered all four hostages had been shot by the pirates. Despite immediate medical care, the four Americans died of their wounds.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the gunfire.
Central Command says two pirates were killed during a confrontation with the U.S. boarding force, and that another 13 pirates were captured and detained. Two other pirates already had been in U.S. custody, and the boarding party found remains of two pirates who had died earlier.
Pirates hijacked the yacht Friday and had been steering it toweard the Somali coast, with four U.S. Navy warships trailing and observing the vessel.
In 2009, U.S. naval forces freed Richard Phillips, the captain of an American ship that had been captured by pirates. Somali pirates have made hundreds of millions of dollars hijacking ships for ransom in recent years. The European Union’s anti-piracy task force says the pirates are currently holding at least 32 vessels and nearly 700 hostages.
Media reports have identified the four Americans as ship owners Scott and Jean Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington.
The four were sailing along with an international yacht race, the Blue Water Rally, before heading off on their own a week ago. Organizers of the rally say the four were sailing toward Salallah in Oman when the pirates seized their ship