Four Americans taken hostage by Somali pirates last week were killed as their captors negotiated with the U.S. for their release. The hostages were two couples, one from Southern California and the other from Seattle.
Pirates are a scourge off lawless Somalia's coast and have been a frequent problem in the Strait of Malacca, a body of water between Malaysia and Indonesia. But pirates can be found in other waters as well.
This year, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre, there have been at least 65 attacks and 11 hijackings worldwide, mostly near Somalia. The center estimates there are currently more than 700 hostages being held by pirates.
Surge Desk looks back at deadly pirate skirmishes from recent years. (Frankly, there are too many non-deadly incidents for us to tabulate.)
November 1998: The Cheung Son
In a deadly incident, 12 Chinese pirates and one Indonesian posed as Chinese police officers to board the Cheung Son. Once they had taken hold of the ship, the pirates killed the ship's 23 sailors. In 2000, China executed the 13 pirates.
December 2001: The death of Peter Blake
Blake was a New Zealander who made a name for himself as an adventurous yachtsman and environmentalist. His yacht was anchored in Brazil, near the Amazon River's mouth, when pirates attacked. Blake died in the skirmish while he was allegedly trying to rescue one of his crew members.
October 2007: The Dai Hong Dan
The North Korean freighter was seized by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. But the crew fought back, leaving two pirates dead.
April 2009: The Maersk Alabama
Somali pirates boarded the U.S. cargo ship, which held 20 crew members, while it was sailing in the Indian Ocean, headed for Kenya. Capt. Richard Phillips gave himself up to the pirates and had his crew take refuge in a locked room. The crew was able to retake the ship, but the pirates held Phillips in a lifeboat. U.S. warships followed the Maersk Alabama, monitoring the situation and attempting to negotiate. But when it seemed that Phillips was ailing, Navy snipers shot the pirates who were holding him, killing them. A teenage Somali pirate involved in the attack was sentenced to 33 years in prison just last week.
In an incident off the coast of Somalia, a private security guard on the Panamanian-flagged ship shot and killed a pirate who was attempting to board.
December 2010: The death of Milan Egrmajer
Egrmajer, a Canadian, and his daughter were sailing in Central American waters on a 35-foot yacht when they were attacked off of Honduras. Egrmajer was shot and died, but his 24-year-old daughter escaped to safety.
January 2011: The Samho Jewelry
A week after pirates hijacked the South Korean ship in the Arabian Sea, South Korean special forces conducted a raid. Eight pirates died and five others were captured, while the crew remained safe.
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