By Staff writer
Four US sailors were killed in the February hijacking, 11 men awaiting sentencing
A US court on Monday handed life sentences to two Somali men for a hijacking off Oman that ended in the deaths of four American sailors.
The sentences given to Ali Abdi Mohamed and Burhan Abdirahman Yusuf were the first delivered over the February hijacking of the S/V Quest. A further 11 men await sentencing, three of whom have been charged with murder over the attack.
The boat's owners and two guests were shot dead before American naval commandos could rescue them. The pirates were in negotiations with the US military when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the yacht at the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett.
The pirates killed their hostages as troops boarded the yacht, the US military said. Two pirates were also shot dead.
The sentences “will be heard throughout the pirate community… and should send a clear message… that the days of unbridled armed robbery and extortion at sea are over,” Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, was quoted as saying by newswire AFP.
Somali pirates have attacked two ships in Oman this week, hijacking one chemical tanker anchored in port and taking the ship and 21 Indian crew back to Somalian waters.
Oman lies at the mouth of the Gulf, a strategic, heavily patrolled waterway which channels a bulk of the world's crude shipments.
Somali pirates behind similar vessel hijackings usually operate in Indian Ocean waters, but in January, a 20,586-tonne Algerian-flagged bulk carrier was seized about 150 miles southeast of Salalah.
Several oil tankers have also been attacked in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, with their valuable cargoes being used by pirates to demand ransoms.
Somalia has lacked a functioning government for two decades. The United Nations last month declared a famine in Somalia and said that 3.7 million people were in need of food assistance.