SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Accounts vary of the high-seas naval clash with Somali pirates that led to the death of four Americans and included a rocket-propelled grenade fired at the San Diego-based destroyer USS Sterett.
According to the Navy, the San Diego-based destroyer USS Sterett had been shadowing a private 58-foot sailboat Quest since it was taken in open waters off Oman on Friday, and on Tuesday, Navy SEALs boarded the vessel amid small-arms fire in response to the grenade attack.
The grenade missed the ship and no Navy personnel were injured, but four Americans were found fatally shot aboard the sailboat - Jean and Scott Adams of Marina del Rey and their sailing mates, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle.
Military forces also found two pirates already dead and killed two more, according to the Navy.
But, the pirates offered a different account.
Liban Muse, a member of the pirate group involved in the incident, told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview from the Somali coast that the U.S. military fired first.
"We had no intention of killing the hostages until the Americans began shooting at us," Muse said. "Our preference is only to take ships and ransom money, not to kill. But governments are targeting and killing our people."
Lt. Col. Mike Lawhorn, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, part of an international coalition of anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, dismissed those claims, according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen pirates from the incident were in U.S. custody Wednesday and are expected to face prosecution.
For years, the Gulf of Aden has grown increasingly dangerous. Somalia has been in anarchy for years, with pirates taking dozens of ships - even oil tankers and container ships - and hundreds of hostages.
The Adams, who had been cruising for more than six years, were devout Catholics and had been distributing Bibles around the world. Their daughter, Emily Elizabeth Sem, who lives in Escondido, issued a statement through the FBI Tuesday night.
"Our loved ones were tragically taken from us and our hearts are broken," she said. "While we wish to grieve in private, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to the brave men and women of the Navy and other military branches who risked their lives trying to save them.
"We would also like to thank the FBI and State Department for their swift and kind treatment of this matter. Our hearts also go out to the families of Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay. We cannot thank you all enough."
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