Three Somalis Charged with Death-Eligible Counts in Murder of Four U.S. Citizens

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) New York Field Office on July 8, 2011 released the following:

“NORFOLK, VA—Three men from Somalia have been charged in a 26-count superseding indictment with the kidnapping, hostage-taking, and murder of four U.S. citizens during the alleged piracy against the S/V Quest. Twenty-two of the 26 counts are death-eligible offenses related to the murders of Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay, and Robert Campbell Riggle on Feb. 22, 2011. To date, 11 of the 14 charged in connection with the attack on the Quest have pled guilty to mandatory life in prison.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the superseding indictment was returned. An arraignment has been scheduled for July 20, 2011.

“Today’s superseding indictment charges three men from Somalia with brutally murdering four American citizens held hostage for ransom,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “This past March, the grand jury returned an indictment against these defendants, and others, with piracy in the armed hijacking of an U.S.-flagged yacht. The superseding indictment accuses these three men of summarily executing the hostages—without provocation—while the military was attempting to negotiate their release. With the additional charges, the defendants now potentially face a death sentence if convicted of these horrendous crimes, and the superseding indictment constitutes another important step in bringing to justice those accused of being directly responsible for the killing of innocent Americans. Today’s charges underscore that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to attacks on our citizens.”

“The charges announced in today’s superseding indictment send a strong message to those who seek to harm Americans on the high seas: you will be subject to American justice,” said FBI ADIC Fedarcyk. “Modern-day pirates remain a very real danger; the FBI joins our international law enforcement partners in our mutual goal of maintaining the rule of law on the high seas.”

“NCIS is committed to—as in the Quest case—capturing and prosecuting alleged pirates through our participation in the FBI’s JTTF but also, to the extent possible, preventing piracy by being the primary law enforcement member of counter-piracy task force CTF-151 since its inception,” said NCIS SAC Russ. “NCIS is uniquely qualified for that mission because we operate daily in a maritime environment around the world to protect Naval personnel and assets.“

According to the superseding indictment, Ahmed Muse Salad, a/k/a “Afmagalo,” 25; Abukar Osman Beyle, 20; and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 29, and others—armed with firearms and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)—boarded the Quest on Feb. 18, 2011, and allegedly gained control of the vessel and took the four American citizens as hostages. As the conspirators sailed toward Somalia, the three defendants and their co-conspirators took turns standing armed guard over the hostages.

Beginning on Feb. 20, 2011, the United States Navy and the FBI began negotiating with the pirates to secure the release of the hostages. The indictment alleges that after two co-conspirators were transferred to the Navy vessel on Feb. 21, 2011, to represent the conspirators onboard the Quest, Abrar fired a shot over the head of Scott Underwood Adam and instructed Adam to tell the Navy that if the military came any closer, the conspirators would kill the hostages.

After a co-conspirator fired an RPG in the vicinity of the Navy vessel, the USS Sterett, the indictment accuses Salad, Beyle, Abrar, and other co-conspirators of intentionally shooting and killing the four U.S. citizens on Feb. 22, 2011, without provocation before the hostages could be rescued by members of the military, who had been attempting to secure the release of the hostages through negotiation with the conspirators.

On March 8, 2011, the three men were among 14 defendants charged with piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and the use of a destructive device during a crime of violence. Today, Salad, Beyle, and Abrar were charged in a superseding indictment with the following alleged crimes:

  • Conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in · · Four counts of hostage taking resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in prison.
  • Conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
  • Four counts of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in prison.
  • Conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.
  • Four counts of violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.
  • Piracy under the law of nations, which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison.
  • Two counts of use, carry, and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison, consecutive to all other counts.
  • Four counts of use, brandish, and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.

The investigation of the case is being conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The prosecution in the Eastern District of Virginia is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin L. Hatch, Joseph DePadilla and Brian J. Samuels, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney Paul Casey from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.

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