Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday deplored the killing by Somali pirates of four Americans whose yacht was hijacked off the Somalia coast late last week. U.S. officials say the ultimate answer to the piracy problem lies in restoring security in Somalia.
Obama administration officials are urging a tougher international response to Horn-of-Africa piracy in the wake of the killings, but acknowledge that the key to the problem is restoring security and governance on the Somali mainland.
U.S. naval forces were trailing the hijacked American yacht, the Quest, Tuesday and trying to negotiate with the hostage-takers when Navy officials said a rocket propelled grenade was fired at a U.S. vessel and shots were heard on board.
U.S. Special Forces seized control of the hijacked yacht and found that all four hostages had been shot by the pirates and later died of their wounds.
The boarding party killed two pirates and detained more than a dozen others in the first known case of Americans being killed by pirate gangs operating off Somalia.
At a press event with Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will honor the memory of the four slain Americans by strengthening the international anti-piracy effort.
"This deplorable act by the pirates that stalk vessels in the waters off of Somalia firmly underscores the need for the international community to act more decisively together. 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.
Clinton said members of the international community concerned about piracy and stability in Somalia should provide material, financial and logistical support to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM.
The 8,000-member force, consisting mainly of troops from Uganda and Burundi, has been fighting Islamist al-Shahab militiamen trying since 2007 to oust Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Governnment or TFG.
Coastal pirates have increased attacks in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships patrolling the region. The European Union says pirates are currently holding at least 32 vessels and nearly 700 hostages.
The State Department said the U.S. Justice Department will be consulted on the status of the pirates captured by U.S. forces Tuesday, who could be handed over to a Kenyan court or face justice in the United States.
Last week’s hijacking of the American yacht came only two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for his role in the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. merchant ship, the Maersk Alabama.