Saturday, July 09, 2011

Somalians Indicted on Murder, Piracy Charges by US Court in Virginia

Somali men indicted on murder, piracy charges

By Tim McGlone
The Virginian-Pilot
July 9, 2011

A federal grand jury late Friday indicted three Somali men on murder, piracy and related charges in the February hijacking of a yacht that left four Americans dead off the African coast.

The new 26-count indictment could end with death sentences if the three men are convicted. It would be the first time in more than a century that the government would seek executions in a piracy case.

The Justice Department at a later date must inform the court if the government plans to seek the death penalty.

The new indictment accuses Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar of shooting and killing the owners of the yacht Quest, Scott Underwood Adam and Jean Savage Adam, and their friends Phyllis Patricia Macay and Robert Campbell Riggle.

The Adams left Southern California to sail the world delivering Bibles to remote locations. They had invited their friends along for part of the journey.

The yacht was taken over Feb. 18 in the Arabian Sea. Navy ships swarmed in and surrounded the yacht, which was attempting to make its way to Somalia.

On Feb. 22, as the Navy and the FBI tried to negotiate the release of the hostages, shots rang out and a rocket-propelled grenade was launched at one of the ships.

The new indictment provides new details of what occurred just before the killings.

The defendants had refused to negotiate until they reached Somalia, where another suspected co-conspirator, who spoke fluent English, would bargain with the Navy, according to the indictment.

On Feb. 21, Abrar fired a shot over the head of Scott Adam and instructed him to tell the Navy that if they came any closer they would kill the hostages, the indictment says.

The next day, after the hostages were killed, some of the pirate suspects began firing at the destroyer Sterett. The Navy then stormed the yacht, killing two Somalis. They found another two already dead, apparently killed during a mutiny attempt.

When Navy commandos reached the hostages, three were already dead and the fourth could not be saved.

"The superseding indictment constitutes another important step in bringing to justice those accused of being directly responsible for the killing of innocent Americans," U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a statement. "Today's charges underscore that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to attacks on our citizens."

Ten Somalis and one Yemeni have already pleaded guilty to piracy charges, sparing them the possibility of a death sentence. The final defendant, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, was not named in the new indictment and will be tried separately on charges of being the land-based negotiator.

Twenty-two of the 26 counts in the new indictment carry a possible death sentence.

Virginia Beach defense attorney Lawrence H. Woodward Jr., who represents Beyle, said he learned of the new indictment late Friday.

"I read the charges and they are extremely serious," he said. "I don't want to comment on the details."

Attorneys for the other two defendants did not return calls for comment.

The three defendants currently have a Nov. 29 trial date on the first indictment. That will have to be postponed, likely until well into next year. They remain in local jails.

Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343,

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