Pirates kill four hostages on yacht
Pirates shot dead four US hostages on a private yacht off Somalia before American special forces boarded the vessel.
US troops killed two pirates as they took control of the boat, and took 15 pirates into custody. Another two pirates were found dead when the special forces arrived but they were not killed by US forces, the military said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "deeply saddened and very upset by the murder of four American citizens" -- a "deplorable act" that underscored the need for more international cooperation against the pirates.
"We've got to have a more effective approach to maintaining security on the seas, in the ocean lanes, that are so essential to commerce and travel," she said.
Pirate gangs preying on shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean typically target large merchant ships, with oil tankers the prize catch, but the snatching of foreigners can also yield high ransoms. There were around 750 pirate hostages at the end of January.
The Americans killed yesterday were Jean and Scott Adam, from California, and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle from Seattle.
The US military said negotiations with the pirates had been under way when, without warning, a pirate fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the destroyer USS Sterett. Then gunfire broke out inside the pirated vessel.
"The intent always had been that this would be a negotiated process and not ever go into a point where we actually had gunfire," said Vice Admiral Mark Fox, the head of U.S. naval forces in the region.