A US jury has recommended that three Somali pirates be sentenced to life in prison for the 2011 killing of four Americans off the coast of East Africa.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, who were convicted in July.
They were among 19 men who hijacked the Americans’ yacht S/V Quest, hoping to ransom them for millions of dollars.
The Americans were killed as rescue talks with the US Navy broke down.
The three men maintained an armed guard over the Americans and shot and killed them as the US Navy closed in, prosecutors said.
In July they were found guilty of all 26 counts against them, including piracy, murder and kidnapping. Federal Judge Rebecca Beach Smith will formally sentence the men in November in the courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia.
Eleven other men have pleaded guilty to piracy in the case and have been sentenced to life in prison.
The victims, Jean and Scott Adam and their guests Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay, were the first US citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years.
The Adams had been sailing around the world in their yacht, the S/V Quest. Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay had joined them for the Indian Ocean leg when the Somalis struck.
After intercepting the hijacked yacht, the Navy offered to let the pirates keep the vessel in exchange for the hostages, according to court records. When the Somali man negotiating with the Navy refused the bargain, he was arrested.
Then, one of the men aboard the S/V Quest fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Navy warship and the US sailors heard gunfire from the yacht.
Special forces fighters boarded the vessel and found the Americans had been killed, the military said.