Seattleites Kidnapped by Pirates? Send the U.S.S. Bainbridge. And a Sniper.

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UPDATE 2/22/11: Sadly, Riggle and Macay were killed by their captors early Tuesday morning.

Because hey, it worked last time a U.S. citizen got hijacked by a bunch of swashbuckling Somalis.

If you missed the news, Washington natives Phyllis Macay, 59, and Bob Riggle, 67 (pictured), were sailing with some friends off the coast of Oman last Friday when their ship was seized by a group of Somali pirates.

The couple had been on a world tour on their yacht The Gaia (and having a fantastic time, by the sound of their blog), but had recently joined up with Scott and Jean Adams, another pair of middle-aged globetrotters sailing with a ship full of Bibles. The group was headed to port in the African nation of Djibouti, but never made it that far.

Like hundreds of others before them, the group was overtaken by pirates, who are now headed back to the Somali coast. There the couple will likely be held for ransom. Unless, of course, a certain warship named after a Puget Sound island comes calling.

In 2009, Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, was taken hostage by pirates. President Obama dispatched the Bainbridge, and a Navy sharpshooter promptly put three bullets in the brains of three Somalis. A fourth pirate was captured in that incident and sentenced to 33 years in federal prison on Friday, the same day that the Seattle couple was snatched.

In the case of Macay and Riggle, a "warship with a helicopter on its deck" is said to be shadowing them and their captors. However, maritime security experts caution that armed rescue operations are extremely risky. In 2009, just a few days before Phillips' rescue, a team of French commandos tried to stage a rescue of another couple being held captive, but accidentally killed the ship's captain they were trying to save.

The alternative, of course, is to pay whatever ransom the pirates ask. That can be extremely expensive, with the going rate for pirate freedom ballooning in the past few years from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million. And it can also be time-consuming--a British couple was released in November after spending 388 days in the hands of pirates.

Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens to the Seattleites trapped on the high seas.

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