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Friday, March 11, 2011

Somalis and one Yemeni charged with piracy and kidnapping

The U.S. Justice Department charged 13 Somalis and one Yemeni with piracy and kidnapping in connection with the seizure and death last month of four Americans on a yacht in waters off the coast of Oman.

The 14 men were indicted by a federal grand jury on piracy, kidnapping and weapons charges and are scheduled to appear today before a U.S. magistrate in Norfolk, Virginia, Peter Carr, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride, said in an e-mailed statement.

The pirates killed the four Americans hostages aboard their boat, the Quest, on Feb. 22 before U.S. military forces attacked, the government charged. The hijackers, who had seized the boat four days earlier, were killed or captured, according to the U.S. Central Command.

“At least three of the defendants on board the Quest intentionally shot and killed the United States citizens,” according to the March 8 indictment unsealed today.

The military had attempted to secure the hostages release through negotiations, according to the indictment. The 14 men were charged with piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and possession and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

The Americans aboard the Quest were Scott and Jean Adam, who owned the yacht, from Marina del Rey, California, and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Washington state.

‘Killing Their Hostages’

“These fourteen men are alleged to have been willing to do anything, including killing their hostages, in a vain attempt to obtain ransom,” Janice Fedarcyk, the FBI assistant director-in- charge of the New York field office, said in a statement. “It is a crime against the international community, a form of terrorism on the high seas,” she said.

The defendants face mandatory life sentences if convicted of either the piracy or kidnapping charge, according to the Justice Department. The weapons charge has a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.

The boarding team “discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” and, though they were found alive and first aid applied, they soon died, according to a U.S. Central Command statement.

During the search of the vessel, the boarding team of U.S. special forces killed two pirates, one in a knife fight and the other by gunshot, and found two others already dead, Vice Admiral Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, said on Feb. 22. The U.S. took 14 men into custody, the indictment said.

Grenade Launcher

The alleged pirates, according to the indictment, were armed with a grenade launcher and AK-47 and FAL rifles. Additional weapons were thrown overboard by the defendants, the indictment states.

The U.S. commandos were launched in small boats after the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship 600 yards (549 meters) away and gunfire was heard on the yacht, Fox said.

The Quest hijacking was the 11th this year in the region, according to statistics compiled by the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 2010, 49 vessels were hijacked, three fewer than in 2009, according to the office.

The case is U.S. v. Salad, 11-cr-00034, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rovella at

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