Somali pirates get life for deadly hijacking of US yacht

2011-12-16 11:32

Washington – Two Somali pirates were sentenced in US federal court to life in prison for killing four Americans while hijacking a yacht.

Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali, a 32-year-old also known as Sanadaaq, pleaded guilty to piracy and hostage-taking resulting in death, while 20-year-old Jilani Abdiali, known as Ilkasse, pleaded guilty to piracy in Eastern District Court of Virginia in the city of Norfolk.

Today’s sentences were the latest in the attack on the Quest yacht. The first life sentences were handed down in August.

Jean and Scott Adam, Christian missionaries from California, were sailing their vessel around the world and planned to visit sites from India to Crete when they were hijacked by 19 men off the coast of Oman in February.

According to the navy, pirates launched a rocket-propelled grenade and, as US forces headed to the hijacked yacht, shot the couple and their companions, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle.

They became the first Americans to die in the raft of hijackings over recent years off the Somali coast. Most incidents have been resolved through the payment of ransom, albeit sometimes after protracted negotiations.

“These men willingly joined this group of pirates out of greed, knowing full well that their actions could – and did – lead to the death of their hostages,” US Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.

“They will spend their lives in prison for what they willingly chose to do and the lifetime of suffering and pain they thrust on the victims’ loved ones.”

Ali admitted in court that he commanded the pirate ship when it left Somalia, transferring the pirates and weapons to the Quest using a skiff.

He also carried an AK-47 assault rifle to guard the hostages and ordered another pirate to fire the rocket-propelled grenade toward a US navy vessel attempting the rescue. But Ali, who got two concurrent life terms, said he did not personally shoot or order the shooting of the Americans.

Abdiali admitted that he was involved in piracy for financial gain, and also claimed he did not shoot any of the Americans himself, or order any one else to shoot them.

“Piracy in its modern form is carjacking at sea. It is not glamorous; it is violent and often murderous,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk.

“The crew of the Quest did nothing to antagonise their captors. They were a target of opportunity.”

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