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Hours before Phyllis Macay, Robert A. Riggle, and Jean and Scott Adam were killed by Somali pirates aboard the 58-foot yacht Quest , a pow-wow

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NYT: Somali Pirates, Dead Hostages, and the Failed On-Ship Negotiation That Got Them Dead

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Hours before Phyllis Macay, Robert A. Riggle, and Jean and Scott Adam were killed by Somali pirates aboard the 58-foot yacht Quest, a pow-wow between an FBI negotiator and two pirate leaders took place on the Navy's U.S.S. Sterett. Here's what went wrong.

The New York Times published the detailed recount of the botched rescue attempt last night.

After receiving the Quest's distress signal, Navy war ships caught up with the Quest, which was now hijacked by the pirates.

Eventually two pirate leaders boarded the Sterett "in a good-faith attempt to negotiate the safe release of the hostages."

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But for some reason, the FBI negotiator that was tasked with securing the hostages' release believed that the leaders had no intention of seriously negotiating. So the pirate leaders were thrown in the brig and the pirates aboard the Quest were told to send over people who were really ready to negotiate.

Throughout it all, the Navy maintained that there was no way the sailors would let the pirates make landfall as long as they had the hostages.

So after the pirate leaders were detained and the rest of their band was told to send new representatives, the other Somalis asked for a night to sleep on what to do next.

Interestingly, the pirates were described as "exceptionally calm" when told about their leaders' detention--or at least that's the impression they gave.

But what happened between the time the pirate leaders boarded the Navy ship and the time the four hostages were killed belies the fact that the bandits were apparently not calm in the least.

. . . hours later, panic ensued among young pirates. Some Americans theorized that a fight had broken out among the gang members, suddenly leaderless, and fearing they were about to be overtaken by the four Navy warships that surrounded them. One person who has talked to associates of the pirates said their leader had told them that if he did not return, they should kill the hostages, though American officials say they do not know that to be the case.

The Times suggests that younger and more reckless members of the pirate group clashed with older business-oriented pirates over whether to kill the valuable hostages or keep trying to negotiate. Obviously, the younger side won out.

The FBI negotiator at the center of it all is said to be experienced, but not necessarily in dealing with Somali pirates.

So when the decision was made to strong-arm the hostage-takers by arresting their leaders, did it seal the fate of the American captives?

Evidence suggests it did.

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