Three alleged Somali pirates charged with the murder of four Americans aboard a yacht off the coast of East Africa in 2011 is set to begin in an American court.
Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Sheikh Abrar might face the death penalty if convicted of the murder, kidnapping and other charges for which they will stand trial before a federal court in the Norfolk, Virginia, home to the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
The owners of the S/V Quest, Jean and Scott Adam and their guests, Bob Riggie and Phyllis Macay were taken hostage for ransom as they sailed around the world, and were killed as rescue negotiations with the US Navy broke down.
The three are accused of maintaining an armed guard over the Americans and intentionally shooting and killing them “without provocation before the hostages could be rescued by the military.”
Eleven other men have pleaded guilty to piracy in the case and have been sentenced to life imprisonment. They are expected to testify against the three charged with murder in hope of having their sentences reduced, with the selection for the jury for the trial already underway.
About 100 people are on the list of potential witnesses, including US military personnel, FBI agents, forensic experts, relatives of the deceased and Somali nationals.
The victims were the first US citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years.