Tenth Somali Pleads Guilty in Pirate Attack that Resulted in Murder of Four U.S. Citizens
NORFOLK, Va. – Mahdi Jama Mohamed, a/k/a “Mahdi,” age estimated to be 23 to 24, of Somalia, pled guilty today in Norfolk federal court to acts of piracy against the S/V Quest, which resulted in the murder of United States citizens Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay and Robert Campbell Riggle. Approximately two months from their arrival in the United States, 10 of the 15 individuals arrested 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 of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge 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 pleas were accepted by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.
“Ten Somali pirates have now pled guilty to the armed hijacking of a U.S. vessel in February,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “The pirates’ greed for tens of thousands in ransom money ultimately led to the cold-blooded murder of the four U.S. hostages off the coast of East Africa. Modern-day pirates are dangerous criminals, not the swash-buckling rogues portrayed in Hollywood movies, and this latest guilty plea shows that attacks against American vessels will be met with swift justice in an American courtroom.”
“Mohamed was a willing conspirator in the planned attack to hijack a vessel for ransom,” said FBI ADIC Fedarcyk. “The Quest unwittingly crossed the pirates’ path, but it was Mohamed’s own avaricious behavior that led to his involvement in this deadly plot. With this additional plea, the FBI reaffirms its commitment to investigating and prosecuting all acts of violence against Americans, whether domestic or abroad.”
Mohamed pled guilty today to piracy under the law of nations, which carries a mandatory life sentence. Mohamed’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3, 2011.
According to court documents, Mohamed admitted he requested to join the pirates before the pirates left Somalia to look for a vessel to hijack. He also admitted to holding a rifle while aboard the Quest when he was on guard duty with the hostages. He warranted in his plea agreement that he did not personally shoot any of the four Americans, nor did they instruct any other person to shoot the hostages.
Prior to Mohamed’s guilty plea, the following co-conspirators have pled guilty in this case:
- Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali, a/k/a Sanadaaq, 32, pled guilty on May 20, 2011, to piracy and hostage taking resulting in death. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6, 2011.
- Mohamud Salad Ali, a/k/a Juguuf, 35, pled guilty on May 20, 2011, to piracy and hostage taking resulting in death. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 18, 2011.
- Ali Abdi Mohamed, a/k/a Basher, 30, pled guilty on May 20, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 22, 2011.
- Jilani Abdiali, a/k/a Ilkasse, 20, pled guilty on May 23, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6, 2011.
- Burhan Abdirahman Yusuf, a/k/a Burhan or Famah, 31, pled guilty on May 23, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 22, 2011.
- Said Abdi Fooley, a/k/a Sae Abdi Fooley or Said, 22, pled guilty on May 24, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 9, 2011.
- Abdi Jama Aqid, a/k/a abdi Mahad Jama or Dabid, age estimated between 24 and 28, pled guilty on May 24, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 9, 2011.
- Muhidin Salad Omar, a/k/a Muhiyaden Salad or Gurdan or Garan or Gurden or Muhdin or Dudan, 30, pled guilty on May 25, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 3, 2011.
- Ahmed Sala Ali Burale, a/k/a Ahmed Sala Ali or Ahmed Hindi or Ahmed Salah Ali Burle, 22, pled guilty on May 25, 2011, to piracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 21, 2011.
Court documents associated with the 10 guilty pleas to date indicate that 19 Somalis willingly conspired to sail the high seas in search of a vessel to pirate and hold for ransom. The men anticipated receiving a percentage of whatever ransom they received, after paying approximately 35 percent to the operation’s financier.
After several days at sea, court documents state that the conspirators were approximately 900 miles from Somalia and running low on fuel when they saw what they knew was an American vessel, the S/V Quest, and they decided to take it. The four hostages were held inside the steering house, being guarded by seven men holding firearms.
According to court documents, as the conspirators sailed back to Somalia, they were overtaken by a U.S. warship. Two men – Mohamud Salad Ali, who was, at the time, the leader of the pirates, and Muhidin Salad Omar, the driver of the skiff – boarded the warship to try to save things. The U.S. military told the men that they do not pay ransoms, but that if the hostages were released the military would allow the pirates to take the Quest back with them to Somalia. The conspirators, court documents state, did not want to release the hostages because they believed they would get little money for the boat itself.
While the military attempted to secure the release of the hostages, Ibrahim, who is deceased but was in charge after Mohamud Salad Ali left the Quest, told the military that they were not going to stop and others on board the Quest began discussing massacring the hostages to get the U.S. boats to retreat. Ibrahim ordered Ali Abdi Mohamed to fire an RPG at the military warship as a warning shot. At this time, court documents state that the five men guarding the hostages began firing their weapons at the hostages, including three men in custody and two who are deceased. Ali Abdi Mohamed and Ahmed Sala Ali Burale stated in court documents that once the shootings began, they and others rushed the shooters and attempted to immobilize them.
Soon after, U.S. military personnel boarded the Quest and took 15 individuals into custody, including a juvenile who has not been charged in this case. Four men were deceased.
On March 8, 2011, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, a/k/a “Khalif Ahmed Shibin,” a/k/a “Shibin,” 50, of Somalia, was indicted for his role in the attack on the Quest. He is alleged to be the person in Somalia responsible for negotiating the ransom of four U.S. citizens held hostage on the high seas. According to the indictment, as the U.S. military attempted to negotiate with the alleged pirates to attempt to free the hostages, they were informed by one of the conspirators on the Quest that Shibin was the person responsible for negotiating the return of the hostages on board the Quest upon their arrival in Somalia. The indictment alleges that during this period of negotiation, Shibin conducted research on the internet to learn about the hostages on the Quest and determine the amount of ransom to demand, along with the identity of family members of the hostages whom he could contact about the ransom.
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.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.