What happened on the death yacht the Quest to cause the pirates to kill the hostages may never be known until a trial or an inquiry establishes the facts, but that does not stop claim and counter-claim by those involved on both sides. Some aspects of the case are, however, becoming clearer.
Cruising sailors Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were shot to death earlier this month while negotiations were going on for their release on board US ship the Skerett.
Contrary to earlier reports that the pirates were locked in the brig because they 'weren't serious', a U.S. government official now claims that it was because they 'didn't have the authority to negotiate anything', and that it was too great a risk to allow them to return to the yacht, where they could then 'do harm to the hostages' or sail away with impunity.
The same official said that the trained negotiators continued trying to negotiate via radio with those still aboard the yacht and made an offer, and were told by the pirates aboard the Quest they would sleep on the matter before providing a reply. The Navy also tried to contact Somalis on land who might be able to exert influence over the men holding the Quest.
So far, so good, and at this point there was no escalation of tension, no threats, merely a waiting game until the morning when they would 'provide a reply.'
But the pirates didn't 'sleep on it'. Instead two of their own were shot as well as the hostages. What caused the sudden change? One of the hostages attempting an escape? Some of the pirates becoming edgy and a split developing? Instructions from on land in Somalia? Or is it true that the negotiating pirates had said, 'If we don't return, shoot the hostages.'?
Whatever the case, even though the overwhelming evidence so far is still that Somali pirates want money, not blood, after this incident crossing the Arabian Sea has become no longer a sailing adventure, but a foolhardy act.
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