While we are happy to see an admission of guilt, the possibility of a lighter sentence and deportation back to Somalia seems like nothing more than a slap on the wrist and the setting free of people who are certain to strike again if given the opportunity.
Three Somali men have pleaded guilty in US federal court to piracy for their role in a hijacking that ended in the deaths of four American sailors. They face life sentences, but could receive lighter terms and eventually be deported to Somalia. Two of them also pleaded guilty to hostage taking at the Virginia court.
The men are among 15 who have been charged for their roles in the February hijacking of S/V Quest. The yacht’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam, were shot to death, along with two passengers Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay.
The group of pirates were negotiating with the US military to release the Americans when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the yacht at the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett.
At least three of the accused killed the hostages without provocation, prosecutors allege.
Mohamud Salad Ali, Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali and Ali Abdi Mohamed, who pleaded guilty on Friday, stated in their plea agreements that they played no direct role in the killings. Several others charged in the case have plea hearings next week.
Court filings viewed by the BBC include new details provided by the three pirates about the fatal encounter, in which four pirates died in a gunfight amongst their own numbers.
According to statements the men made to prosecutors, in February pirates were cruising the Indian Ocean in a hijacked Yemeni vessel, looking for a ship to attack. They had been at sea for eight days and were about 900 miles from their home port of Xaafuun, Somalia, and running out of fuel when they came across the Quest sitting in the water.
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