MOGADISHU, Somalia — An American couple that has sailed the world with a yacht full of Bibles was hijacked by Somali pirates, and the U.S. said Saturday it is assessing possible options.
Pirates say the yacht will make landfall in Somalia today, which would reduce the chances of a fast rescue dramatically. A British sailing couple hijacked by pirates was held hostage in a stiflingly hot Somali region for more than a year.
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 case ended in a spectacular rescue when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship's captain, Richard Phillips.
The Quest is the home of Jean and Scott Adam, a couple from California who have 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.
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The pirates are unlikely to hurt the four Americans because they won't win any ransom money if they do, said Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, the head of Dryad Maritime Intelligence.
The U.S. military was monitoring the situation. 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.
Pirates have increased attacks off the coast of East Africa in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships dedicated to protecting vessels and stopping the pirate 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 more than 660 hostages, not counting the attack against the Quest.
A Somali pirate who gave his name as Bile Hussein said the yacht was expected to arrive in Somalia today "if no problems happen on their way."