A U.S. federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, on Monday sentenced two Somali men to life in prison for their role in the hijacking of an American yacht in which four people were killed early this year.
Muhidin Salad Omar and Mahdi Jama Mohamed were sentenced by Judge Michael Davis of Norfolk federal court for their roles in the deadly hijacking of S/V Quest off the coast of East Africa in February.
Both of them had earlier admitted to participating in the yacht's hijacking, but denied killing anyone. Two of their co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment in August. Three others, charged with murder, face the death penalty if convicted in a separate trial.
They were part of a 14-member gang captured by the U.S. Navy in connection with the hijacking. All of them were accused of hijacking the yacht, negotiating for ransom and shooting dead the vessel's occupants, namely yacht owners Jean and Scott Adam and their guests Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay.
The 58-feet yacht was seized by pirates on February 18. On getting a distress signal, a flotilla of Naval vessels including the U.S. Navy's USS Enterprise went to the rescue of the hijacked yacht.
As per the U.S. Navy's version, two of the pirates came on board the Enterprise to negotiate release of the hostages. Later, commandos from the elite Navy Seal forces boarded the yacht and found the Americans dying of gunshot wounds.
In the ensuing firefight, the commandos managed to kill two pirates and capture the 14 suspects charged in the case. Two more pirates were found dead on board the yacht, but it was not yet clear how they were killed.
Somalia's coastline, particularly the Gulf of Aden, has been infested with piracy in recent years. Pirates are presently believed to be holding 29 vessels and 693 hostages off the Somali coast. The incidents mostly end with payment of ransom after lengthy negotiations, but generally without any fatalities.
Pirate attacks off the Somali coast and in the Indian Ocean continue despite the presence of several warships deployed by Navies of the NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, South Korea and India to protect cargo and cruise ships against piracy.
Despite the ongoing international efforts to weed out the menace, pirates continued to operate with impunity and some of their leaders are known to have amassed vast sums of money received as ransom for releasing hijacked vessels and sailors.
The pirates have recently extended their operations deep into the Indian Ocean to avoid interception by international anti-piracy forces conducting regular patrols in the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali coast and parts of the Indian Ocean.
Source: RTT News