For the first time in modern history, four Americans have been shot and killed by pirates that have long plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The fate of the crew on board the Quest went off course Feb. 18 when Somali pirates seized the private, American-owned yacht.
The situation took a turn for the worst Tuesday morning, when U.S. naval warships heard gunfire. By the time authorities boarded the ship, they found all four Americans shot and killed.
"Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four of the hostages died of their wounds," said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The boat belonged to California couple Scott and Jean Adam, who'd been living on the ship and sailing the seas since 2002. According to their website, their mission was to travel to ports around the world distributing Bibles and "seeking fertile ground for the Word."
CBN News spoke with Rudy Atallah of White Mountain Research about this tragedy, and the increase in pirate attacks. Atallah is a former Pentagon official who was involved in the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking incident. Click play for his comments following John Jessup's report.
Those who knew the Adams say they were doing their life's work.
"Their personal mission and their dream was to deliver Bibles," church friend Ed Archer said. "They're very faith-filled. They were very involved here at the parish. That was their world dream."
Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, two of the couple's friends from Washington state, were also on board and killed.
The ship was hijacked about 300 miles off the Somali coast.
"Pirates in that part of the world are becoming more demanding for higher ransom and more violent," family friend Dan Heyl said.
A fleet of four U.S. naval warships had been trailing the yacht for several days and was in the middle of negotiating the couple's release.
"We don't know if these Somali pirates are loyal to al Shabaab, the terrorist group that is trying to impose Sharia law and seize control of Somalia," CBN News Sr. International Correspondent Gary Lane explained. "If they are, then they wouldn't hesitate to execute these Christians."
In all, 19 pirates were involved in hijacking the Quest. Fifteen are currently in U.S. custody, and two were killed by U.S. forces.
Two others were found dead on board the Quest, but it's unclear whether the pirates had been fighting among themselves or with the hostages.