Updated: 11/03/11 : 08:38:53
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World: 'Pirates' Charged With Killing Americans

Fourteen suspected pirates have been charged in connection with the deaths of four Americans whose yacht was hijacked off the coast of Oman.

Jean and Scott Adam from California and two friends from Seattle were shot to death after their boat the 'Quest' was overpowered last month.

It is the first time US citizens have been killed in a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden in recent years.

The Adams were a retired couple who had been sailing around the world delivering bibles.

US navy ships were tracking the 'Quest' after the hijack and negotiations were under way when the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade. Gunfire was then heard on the yacht. Special Forces boarded and found the Americans had been fatally wounded.

The alleged hijackers were captured and held in custody on the USS Enterprise as it sailed back to the United States with the bodies of the dead Americans.

Today the US Justice Department announced the men 13 Somalis and one Yemeni have been charged with piracy, kidnapping and firearms offences.

FBI Assistant Director Janice Fedarcyk said: "Modern day piracy has real and serious consequences; disrupting commerce and threatening Americans' lives.

"It is a crime against the international community, a form of terrorism on the high seas. Today's charges should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy against Americans or American vessels: even on the open ocean, you are not beyond the reach of American justice."

The defendants made their first court appearance today in Norfolk, Virginia. The men, who were all dressed in blue jumpsuits, were read the charges against them, told they face life in prison if convicted and advised they would be getting a lawyer.

A custody hearing has been set for next Tuesday.