Thursday, July 21, 2011

Somalian Defendants Deny Killing Americans In Attack on Yacht

3 Somalis deny killing Americans in yacht attack

Defendants could face death penalty if convicted in federal court

updated 7/20/2011 11:28:16 AM ET 2011-07-20T15:28:16

NORFOLK, Va. — Three Somali men pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges that they kidnapped and murdered four U.S. citizens in an alleged pirate attack on the yacht Quest.

Despite victim’s efforts, attacker executed .
Ahmed Muse Salad, also known as “Afmagalo,” 25; Abukar Osman Beyle, 20; and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 29, entered their pleas through an interpreter in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

The Somalis entered their pleas to 26 counts related to the shooting, kidnapping and murdering of the two couples during their arraignment. Most of the charges carry the death penalty if convicted.

Eleven others have pleaded guilty to charges related to the attack on the Quest and have agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

The four slain Americans were Jean and Scott Adam of California and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle.

According to the indictment, a group of men armed with firearms and a rocket-propelled grenade boarded the Quest on Feb. 18 several hundred miles south of Oman and took the four Americans as hostages.

As they sailed toward Somalia, the three defendants and their co-conspirators took turns standing armed guard over the hostages, according to the indictment.

Beginning Feb. 20, the U.S. Navy and the FBI began negotiating with the pirates to try to secure the release of the hostages.

One defendant, Abrar, fired a shot over the head of Scott Adam and instructed Adam to tell the Navy that if the U.S. warship came any closer, the pirates would kill the hostages, according to the indictment.

The three defendants were accused of intentionally shooting and killing the hostages on Feb. 22 without provocation, before the four Americans could be rescued by the U.S. military.

Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have hijacked vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by seizing ships, including oil tankers, and hostages.

WAVY-TV and Reuters contributed to this report.

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