3 Somali pirates get life for killing four Americans on boat

Published Aug. 3, 2013

WASHINGTON — Three Somali pirates were sentenced to life in prison Friday for the shooting deaths of four Americans in a 2011 hijacking off the coast of East Africa.

A federal jury in Norfolk, Va., decided not to impose the death penalty on Ahmed Muse Salad, 20, Abukar Osman Beyle, 25, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 29, after each was convicted last month on 26 counts including piracy and murder. The piracy convictions carry mandatory life sentences.

Jurors began deliberations Thursday and quickly reached a decision in the first murder trial involving pirates in the United States in nearly two centuries.

Scott and Jean Adam, retirees from Marina del Rey, Calif., were midway in an around-the-world voyage aboard their 58-foot sloop, the Quest, with two friends, Robert Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, when Somalis armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers captured the boat in February 2011. Prosecutors argued that the Somalis wanted to hold the Americans for ransom, part of a rash of pirate attacks in the waters off East Africa.

Four U.S. warships patrolling the area encircled the Quest, and Navy negotiators attempted to gain the release of the hostages. But with talks breaking down, prosecutors said, the pirates panicked and unleashed a barrage of gunfire, killing the Americans.

Twelve men previously had been convicted of piracy or pleaded guilty to piracy in the Quest incident. All were sentenced to life terms.

Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty in this case of Salad, Beyle and Abrar, arguing that the men fired the fatal shots. Defense attorneys had pleaded with jurors for leniency.