Somali charged in hijacking that killed 4 Americans
Washington: An accused Somali pirate said to have been the chief negotiator in a hijacking that left four Americans dead, has been indicted on charges related to the killings, US officials said on Wednesday.
A federal court in Norfolk, Virginia unsealed the indictment of Mohammad Saaili Shibin who was charged in the fatal hijacking last February. The indictment, which was handed up last month, remained sealed until Wednesday, officials said.
"The arrest of Mohammad Shibin is a significant breakthrough in the United States' battle against Somali pirates," said US Attorney Neil MacBride. "Today marks the first time that the US government has captured and charged an alleged pirate in a leadership role -- a hostage negotiator who operated in Somalia.”
"We hope that this indictment will strike at the heart of the piracy business and send a strong message to all pirates that they are not beyond the reach of the FBI, whether they board the ships or remain on-shore in Somalia," he said.
The four Americans, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, Washington, were sailing their yacht "The Quest" off the coast of Oman in the Indian Ocean when the pirates attacked the vessel.
US service members, who had been trailing the yacht during the hostage drama, boarded the vessel after hearing gunshots and discovered that the four Americans had been fatally shot, US officials said.
The US military said it had undertaken negotiations, led by Shibin, to secure the release of the hostages, at the time the pirates fatally shot their captives.
The US Justice Department last month indicted several other suspected pirates on charges related to the same hijacking.
Last month's indictment said the pirates had been in possession of heavy weaponry including a grenade launcher and several assault rifles at the time of their arrest.
The men face mandatory sentences of life in prison if convicted of piracy, and up to life in prison for conspiracy to kidnap and firearms charges, according to a US attorney's office statement last month.