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14 suspected pirates indicted in attack on yacht that left 4 Americans dead

Appearing in a court in Norfolk, Va., 13 Somalis and 1 Yemeni are charged with piracy, kidnapping and weapons possession. Accused of killing Jean and Scott Adams and another couple, they were captured by U.S. forces that boarded the yacht.

March 11, 2011|By Julie Mianecki, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A federal grand jury has indicted 14 suspected pirates in the attack on a yacht in the Indian Ocean that left four Americans dead.

Thirteen Somalis and one Yemeni made initial appearances in a Norfolk, Va., courtroom Thursday on charges of piracy, kidnapping and firearms possession.

The four Americans, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, were sailing the 58-foot Quest off the coast of Oman last month, headed toward the Red Sea, when their yacht was attacked.

The Adams combined missionary work with their love of sailing and had traveled the world, delivering armloads of Bibles.

U.S. forces in the area heard gunfire, and the suspects allegedly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a trailing U.S. warship, but the four hostages, as well as two alleged pirates, had already been shot, the U.S. military said.

Some of the hostages were still alive and given treatment, but could not be saved, U.S. officials said.

"At least three of the defendants on board the Quest intentionally shot and killed the United States citizens without provocation," said the indictment, which added that members of the military had tried to negotiate the hostages' release.

The two alleged pirates wounded by gunfire died, and military forces killed two others, one with a gun and one with a knife.

The indictment said the suspects were in possession of a grenade launcher, ammunition and several assault rifles, and that they tossed additional weapons into the ocean.

The defendants face mandatory sentences of life in prison if convicted of the piracy charges, and up to life in prison on the conspiracy to kidnap and firearms charges, according to a U.S. attorney's office statement.

In the statement, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, called piracy "a form of terrorism on the high seas."

"These 14 men are alleged to have been willing to do anything, including killing their hostages, in a vain attempt to obtain ransom," Fedarcyk said. "Today's charges should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy against Americans or American vessels — even on the open ocean, you are not beyond the reach of American justice."

jmianecki@tribune.com

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