(Reuters) - A Somali man accused of negotiating a ransom for two American couples held hostage and later killed by pirates has been brought to the United States to face criminal charges, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.Mohammad Saaili Shibin has been charged in U.S. federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, over the alleged pirating of an American yacht in February off the coast of Somalia and the taking hostage of four U.S. citizens who were later killed.He was brought to the United States and indicted by a federal grand jury on March 8 but it remained sealed until now. Shibin is slated for a detention hearing later on Wednesday.
According to the indictment, he researched over the Internet who the hostages were to try to determine how much ransom to demand and the identity of their family members so he could contact them about a ransom.
The four slain Americans were Jean and Scott Adam of California and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle from Seattle.Justice Department officials said the defendant was identified by his conspirators as the person in Somalia responsible for negotiating the ransom.Pirate gangs operating off the coast of Somalia have stepped up hijacking attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by seizing ships, including oil tankers.In this incident, a group of pirates seized the yacht and were negotiating with the U.S. military to release the couples when a pirate fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett.
Gunfire then broke out inside the pirated vessel, prompting the U.S. military to send American special forces to board the ship. The U.S. military has said the pirates shot the hostages before American troops boarded the yacht.U.S. troops killed two pirates as they boarded the boat. Another two were found dead when special forces arrived but they were not killed by U.S. forces, the military has said.Thirteen Somalis and one Yemeni were brought to Norfolk a month ago to face charges of piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and use of firearms during a crime stemming from the incident
15th indicted in piracy that killed 4 US yachters
NORFOLK, Va. -- A Somali man accused of acting as chief negotiator for pirates who took four Americans hostage and killed them in February is facing piracy, kidnapping and weapons charges, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.Mohammad Saaili Shibin was scheduled to make a court appearance Wednesday in Norfolk to determine whether he'll remain in jail while awaiting trial. The U.S. Attorney's Office says he was apprehended in Somalia and arrived in the U.S. on FridayThirteen Somalis and a man from Yemen pleaded not guilty last month to piracy, kidnapping and firearms charges related to the same hijacking. Their trial is scheduled for Nov. 29.The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death after they were taken hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.The indictment says Shibin was the one who researched the four on the Internet to determine how much of a ransom to seek and to identify family members they should contact for ransom.Pirates have increased attacks off the coast of East Africa despite an international flotilla of warships dedicated to stopping the pirate assaults.U.S. naval forces were tracking the Americans' captured yacht with unmanned aerial vehicles and four warships, and negotiations were under way when the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade.Special forces boarded the vessel and found the Americans had been shot, according to the military. Pirates have blamed the deaths of the American hostages on the U.S. Navy, saying the pirates felt under attack.It was the first time U.S. citizens have been killed in the pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years. The pirates are typically motivated by the potential for millions of dollars in ransom money.The Adams, who were retired, had been sailing full-time on their 58-foot yacht and delivering Bibles around the world. The indictment accuses at least three of the indicted men of shooting and killing the four Americans without provocation.Associated Press.