- Associated Press - Sunday, February 20, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Organizers of an international yacht race have named the four Americans taken hostage by Somali pirates off East Africa.

The organizers of the Blue Water Rally said late Saturday on their website that Scott and Jean Adam’s yacht had been participating in the race, but left it Feb. 15 to take an independent course from India to Oman.

The Adams’ yacht, the Quest, was hijacked Friday in the Arabian Sea south of Oman. U.S. officials said they are monitoring the situation but gave no indication Sunday as to whether the military will intervene before the yacht reaches Somalia.

The Blue Water Rally organizers identified the other two Americans aboard as Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle. The NBC television affiliate in Seattle spelled the name as Phyllis Mccay and said she and Mr. Riggle are from Seattle.

“We feel desperately sorry for our four friends onboard and our thoughts are with them and their friends and family. All the yachts still on the rally are fine and well,” the rally’s website said.

Pirates in Somalia said Sunday that the yacht is nearing the Somali coast, though no officials confirmed the claim. U.S. military officials declined to comment. Somali officials condemned the attack but said they did not know specifics about where the yacht was or if any military action was imminent.

The Adams, who are from California, have been sailing the world with a yacht full of Bibles since 2004. The hijacking of their yacht came two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That case ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship’s captain.

Pirates have increased attacks off the coast of East Africa in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships dedicated to protecting vessels and stopping the pirate assaults. Multimillion-dollar ransoms are fueling the trade, and the prices for releasing a ship and hostages have risen sharply.

Pirates currently hold 30 ships and more than 660 hostages, not counting the attack against the Quest.

The best-known case of Westerners being held hostage in Somalia was that of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a British couple held for 388 days. The two, who were captured while sailing in their private yacht, were released in November.

The Adams — who are members of the Marina del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, Calif. — run a Bible ministry, according to their website, and have been distributing Bibles to schools and churches in remote villages in areas including the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America and French Polynesia.

The pirates from Puntland in northern Somalia are not hardline Islamists, and the fact the Adams carry Bibles is not likely to be a problem. Pirates in Puntland are known to spend their ransom spoils on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

Jason Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya.

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