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4 Americans Being Held Hostage By Pirates

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Pirates hijacked a yacht and are now holding four Americans hostage.  This happened off the coast of East Africa, an area plagued by piracy.

Kai Jackson explains the same thing nearly happened to an Annapolis woman.

The U.S. Navy is reportedly shadowing a hijacked American yacht off the coast of Somalia.  Pirates hijacked the Quest Friday and are holding four Americans on board hostage.  Friends say the four were sailing with a group of boats for safety reasons but at some point, they decided to break off and go it alone.  That’s when the pirates moved in.

“It is a high risk area,” said maritime security analyst Tim Hart.

Piracy is a big problem in the area where the hijacking took place.  Estimates vary but it’s believed pirates currently hold at least 31 vessels and about 700 hostages.

“Piracy has become a major industry in Somalia, filling a major vacuum of a state that can’t provide economic opportunity, can’t provide livelihoods for its people,” said CSIS Africa Director Jennifer Cooke.

Meg Rhian of Annapolis knows the danger all too well.  In 2004, Rhian was on board a cruise ship about 700 miles from the Somali coast when pirates tried to take the ship. 

“The announcement was, `This is your captain.  We’ve been approached by pirates.  Get down on the floor and stay there,'” Rhian said.  “The captain said, `They will not get on my ship.  We’re going to outrun them.’  And that’s what happened.”

In 2009, Navy sharpshooters stepped in when pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama, holding the captain hostage.  It’s not clear if the U.S. military will step in this time.

If the yacht makes it to Somalia’s shores, the hostages would probably be taken inland, making a fast resolution less likely.

The boat’s owners are from California.  They’ve been sailing the world since 2004, distributing Bibles.

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