Byline: Associated Press
NORFOLK, Virginia (AP) — A U.S. judge ordered two more Somali pirates Oct. 4 to spend life in prison for their role in the hijacking of a yacht off the coast of Africa that left all four Americans on board dead.
The owners of the sailboat Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death in February several days after being taken hostage hundreds of miles south of Oman.
They were the first Americans killed in a wave of piracy that has plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years.
The two men, Mohamud Salad Ali and Ahmed Sala Ali Burale, are the fifth and sixth men who have pleaded guilty to piracy in the case to be sentenced. Ali received a second life sentence that he will serve concurrently with the other one because he also pleaded guilty to hostage taking resulting in death.
“Mohamud Salad Ali led the pirate attack and his refusal to release the four Americans — even with the opportunity to proceed to Somalia with the Quest — reveals the callous regard that Somali pirates have for their hostages and the threat they pose to any U.S. vessel on the high seas,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.
On Oct. 3 Muhidin Salad Omar, the pirates’ skiff driver and Mahdi Jama Mohamed, a guard aboard the pirate boat, were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the hijacking of the yacht.
Two other Somali pirates were sentenced to life in prison in August.
Of the 19 men who originally boarded the 58-foot sailboat Quest, 11 have pleaded guilty, four were killed, three are facing murder charges and one was released because he was a juvenile. Another man who served as a land-based negotiator also faces piracy charges in the case.
Several of the other pirates who have pleaded guilty and are expected to be sentenced later this year.
It’s still not clear why the shooting that killed the four Americans started, although it began after a rocket propelled grenade was fired at one of the U.S. Navy ships that had begun shadowing Quest after the hijacking. Court records say some of the men had threatened to kill the hostages to get the Navy to go away.
The Adams had been members of the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey since 2001 and the yacht club served as their stateside mail drop since they departed in 2004 on a worldwide voyage aboard Quest that included the distribution of Bibles.