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Sunday, February 27, 2011

US officials detained pirate negotiators before hostages were executed, going against standard negotiation practices...

Source: U.S. officials detained pirate negotiators before hostage executions
By the CNN Wire Staff
February 27, 2011 1:34 a.m. EST

(CNN) -- Before two pirate leaders departed the yacht where they held four Americans earlier in February, a maritime source says they left instructions: kill the hostages if we do not come back from negotiations.

U.S. officials took the negotiating pirates into custody -- a move which goes against standard negotiation practices, the source said.

The four Americans were later killed, but it is not clear why.

It is also not clear when during the negotiations -- or why -- the Americans reportedly detained the two pirates.

The pirates' detention goes against standard negotiating practices, as the pirates came in good faith to make a deal to hand over the hostages, said the source, who was briefed on the incident and has connections to British intelligence officials.

The source asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

United States Central Command declined to comment on whether officials detained the pirates and said the FBI and the Justice Department have the lead in the case. Officials at both the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately return calls for comment Saturday night.

Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were found shot to death after U.S. forces boarded their hijacked vessel around 1 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. officials have said.

The 58-foot yacht, named the Quest, was being shadowed by the military after pirates took the ship off the coast of Oman on February 18.

The forces responded after a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a U.S. Navy ship about 600 yards away -- and missed -- and the sound of gunfire could be heard on board the Quest, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Mark Fox has said. The killings took place as negotiations involving the FBI were under way for the hostages' release.

When Fox spoke last week, he said two pirates boarded a U.S. Navy ship Monday for talks. He told reporters he had no information on details of the negotiations or whether a ransom had been offered.

Two pirates were found dead on board the Quest, said Fox. In the process of clearing the vessel, U.S. forces killed two others, one with a knife, he said. Thirteen others were captured and detained, along with the other two already on board the U.S. Navy ship. Nineteen pirates were involved altogether, said Fox.

He said authorities believe the pirates were trying to get the vessel and hostages to Somalia, or at least into Somali territorial waters.

Piracy has flourished recently off the coast of Somalia, which has not had an effective government for two decades.

Globally, more than 50 pirate attacks have already taken place in 2011. As of February 15 -- the most recent statistic posted on the International Maritime Bureau's website, pirates were holding 33 vessels and 712 hostages.

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