The FBI had to respond to a sudden emergency on February 18, 2011, when they received reports of a Yacht named SY Quest, which was captured by Somali Pirates about 190 to 240 miles off Oman’s coast. Incidentally, the SY Quest was on a voyage from Mumbai, India, to the Suez Canal, and even though the people on board received ample warning about pirates, they decided to move ahead with their plans regardless. Paramount+’s ‘FBI True: Hostages at Sea’ chronicles the shocking incident and even follows the subsequent rescue operations. Well, let’s delve into the details and find out the identities of the victims and the pirates, shall we?
Who Were the Victims?
Reports mentioned that the SY Quest was initially docked in Mumbai before beginning its journey toward the Suez Canal. Moreover, apart from receiving several cautions about possible pirate activity in the area, the yacht was also supposed to join a sailing party. Yet, the owners chose to ignore the warnings and even sailed out on their own. At the time of the kidnapping, the SY Quest was occupied by its owners, Jean and Scott Adam, as well as their friends, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle. While Jean and Scott originally resided in Marina Del Ray, California, and were known to be a generous and kindhearted couple, Phillis and Robert were natives of Seattle, Washington, and people who knew them spoke about their cheerful and down-to-earth personalities.
As soon as the SY Quest got separated from the sailing party and began drifting toward the coast of Oman, it was spotted by Somali pirates. Hence, the pirates approached the yacht on a mothership and took all four US citizens captive on February 18, 2011. However, they were restrained and kept on board as the perpetrators turned the ship towards Puntland. Around this time, three US warships, namely the USS Leyte Gulf, USS Sterett, and USS Bulkeley, intercepted the sound of small-arms gunfire and decided to investigate the incident. During their search, they came across the SY Quest around February 21 and were alarmed to learn that four American Citizens were being held hostage onboard.
Therefore, after getting in touch with the FBI, the US Navy began negotiations with the pirates while keeping the safety of all four hostages in mind. Unfortunately, the negotiations weren’t successful, and reports mention that on February 22, a pirate aboard the SY Quest shot a rocket at one of the Warships. Shortly after, the Navy heard the sound of gunfire from the yacht, forcing them to take quick action. However, even though a team boarded the pirated vessel and took two pirates down, they soon noticed that all four hostages had been executed in cold blood. Meanwhile, the remaining fifteen pirates surrendered to the Navy as they had no escape plan.
Who Were The Pirates?
Once the US Navy rounded up the Pirates, they singled out Mohamud Salad Ali as the leader, while Mohammad Saaili Shibin was identified as the ransom negotiator. On top of it, authorities also figured out that Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar were directly responsible for killing all four hostages. However, regardless of the seriousness of their crime, all fifteen pirates were taken into custody and transported to Norfolk, Virginia, where they faced multiple charges related to piracy and kidnapping. When produced in court, every single pirate insisted on their innocence and pled not guilty.
Since the evidence was overwhelming, the negotiator, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, was eventually convicted on 9 separate charges, including piracy. Consequently, he is serving multiple life sentences in North Carolina’s FMC Butner. On the other hand, the three murderers, Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, were found guilty on numerous counts, with a notable few being piracy, violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, among others.
They were also convicted on several firearm charges and, in 2013, were sentenced to 51 life sentences, out of which two were supposed to be concurrent. Among the other pirates, Mohamud Salad Ali, Said Abdi Fooley, Muhidin Salad Omar, and Abdi Jama Aqid are serving lifelong sentences in US federal prisons, while Mahdi Jama Mohamed, Mounir Ali, Jilani Abdali, Ahmed Sala Ali Burale, Ali Abdi Mohamed, Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali, and Burhan Abdirahm Yusuf will be released between 2036 to 2042.