Three Somali men face a possible death penalty when they go on trial this week for a pirate attack that led to the death of four Americans.
Jury selection begins Tuesday in the city of Norfolk, Virginia, for Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Sheikh Abrar.
The three were among 15 Somalis arrested after the killing of the Americans aboard the Quest, a vessel hijacked by pirates near the coast of Somalia in February 2011.
A U.S. indictment accuses Salad, Beyele and Abrar of shooting and killing the four Americans without provocation during hostage negotiations with the U.S. Navy and FBI.
The three face a total of 26 counts of piracy, kidnapping, hostage-taking and discharge of a firearm resulting in death.¬† All three have pleaded not guilty.
Eleven other Somalis along with an onshore negotiator arrested for the Quest incident have received sentences of life in prison.
The four Americans killed – Scott and Jean Adam of California and their friends, Robert Riggle and Phyllis Macay, both of Seattle – were sailing from India toward Djibouti when pirates seized their boat.
At the time, Somali pirates were attacking dozens of ships each month and receiving multi-million dollar ransoms to release hijacked vessels and their crews.
Since then Somali piracy has been in sharp decline, because of increased security on ships and international naval patrols near the coast.
The International Maritime Bureau has recorded only seven piracy incidents off Somalia this year, and only one successful hijacking.