LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — A retired Southland couple who travel around the world distributing Bibles are among four Americans being held hostage by Somali pirates and the U.S. government said Saturday it was assessing possible responses.
Pirates hijacked the yacht S/V Quest on Friday, two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. container ship. That case ended in a spectacular rescue when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips.
The S/V 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. Two other Americans were also believed to be on board.
The hijacking was first reported by Ecoterra International, which monitors regional maritime activity. Ecoterra reported the S/V Quest was seized 240 nautical miles off the coast of Oman in southwest Asia.
“S/V Quest was attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean and the four Americans on board are being held hostage,” according to Ecoterra. “The sailing yacht was reportedly now en route from India to Mina Raysut, the industrial port of Salalah, Oman.”
A self-proclaimed pirate said he expected the yacht to reach Somalia on Sunday. A U.S. 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 U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which oversees Somalia, said reports indicate there are four U.S. citizens aboard the Quest.
“All relevant U.S. agencies are monitoring the situation, working to develop further information, assess options and possible responses,” Goshko said.
The Adams — who are members of the Marina del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, California — run a Bible ministry, according to their website, and have been distributing Bibles to schools and churches in remote villages in areas including the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America and French Polynesia.
The Adams carry both Catholic and Protestant versions of the Bible, and at several different reading levels. The couple stamps the bibles with “A GIFT from your friends in the United States. Quest Bible Ministry. NOT FOR SALE,” after discovering a teacher who they gave Bibles to sold them.
The pirates from Puntland are not hardline Islamists and the fact the Adams carry Bibles is not likely to be a problem. Pirates in Puntland are known to spend their ransom spoils on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.
But the prison sentence given to Muse this week could have implications for the four American hostages. Pirates have turned increasingly violent in their attacks, and naval officials say pirates have begun systematically torturing hostages and using them as human shields.
Earlier this week a pirate told an Associated Press reporter in Somalia that pirates would target Americans in retaliation for the sentencing. The pirate, who identified himself by the name Hassan, said Americans would suffer “regrettable consequences.”
The security minister in Puntland condemned the hijacking and called for an urgent rescue operations and for the pirates to be dealt with “relentlessly and mercilessly.”
“We are not capable of stopping piracy. They have expertise and can reach far beyond Somali coastlines. Puntland will do its bests to track them down,” Gen. Yusuf Ahmed Khary said.
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