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US assessing options in hijacking of couple by Somali pirates

By Jason Straziuso
Associated Press / February 20, 2011

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NAIROBI — Somali pirates have hijacked the yacht of an American couple who traveled the world handing out Bibles, and the US government said yesterday it was assessing possible responses.

Pirates hijacked the yacht 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 the Maersk Alabama. That incident ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips.

The Quest is the home of Jean and Scott Adam, a California couple who have been sailing around the world since December 2004, according to a website they keep. Two other Americans were also believed to be on board.

The couple — who are members of the Marina del Rey Yacht Club in 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 yacht is expected to reach Somalia today. A US military spokesman said: “We’re aware of the situation and we continue to monitor it.’’

“All relevant US agencies are monitoring the situation, working to develop further information, assess options, and possible responses,’’ said Matt Goshko, a US Embassy spokesman in Nairobi.

Pirates have increased attacks off East Africa in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships dedicated to protecting vessels and stopping the assaults. Multimillion-dollar ransoms are fueling the trade, and the prices for releasing a ship and hostages have risen sharply.

Pirates currently hold 30 ships and about 660 hostages, not counting the Quest.

US officials will probably try to prevent the Adams’s yacht from reaching Somalia, where rescue options become limited.

The Adams’s website chronicles their travels over the past seven years. They most recently sailed from Thailand to Sri Lanka and India and were on their way to Oman when captured.

Djibouti — the tiny East African country north of Somalia — had been next on their list.

“Djibouti is a big refueling stop. I have NO idea what will happen in these ports, but perhaps we’ll do some local touring,’’ the couple’s website says.

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