The newspaper said the pirates were brought aboard the USS Sterett on Monday to negotiate over the yacht hijacked off Somalia but were then detained on the orders of an FBI hostage negotiator, who did not think they were serious.
US officials said the pirates back on the yacht seemed relieved by the news that their leader — a veteran buccaneer — had been detained, but that panic broke out hours later, leading to the deadly shooting, the Times reported.
Somali pirates on Wednesday blamed the violence aboard the hijacked yacht on the US navy’s intervention and said they had information that the hostages were killed in the crossfire after US forced stormed the yacht.
Vice Admiral Mark Fox, head of the US Naval Forces Central Command based in Bahrain said two of the pirates had been brought aboard the nearby Sterett to conduct negotiations to free the hostages.
Then Tuesday morning, with “absolutely no warning,” the pirates launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the warship, though several Somalis also raised their arms in surrender on the yacht’s deck, Fox said.
US Special Forces raced to the yacht on small boats. By the time they boarded, they heard gunfire and saw that all four Americans had been shot, Fox said. They died after efforts to treat them failed.
He said two pirates were killed in the assault.
Most of the hundreds of hijackings that have occurred off the Somali coast over the past three years have been resolved through the payment of a ransom, albeit after sometimes protracted negotiations.