3 Somalis deny killing Americans in pirate attack

By Steve Szkotak

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, July 20 2011 8:03 a.m. MDT

NORFOLK, Va. — Three suspected Somali pirates say they are innocent of charges they killed four Americans on a hijacked yacht off the coast of Africa.

The three entered not guilty pleas Wednesday in federal court in Norfolk on murder and other charges.

Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar could face the death penalty if they're convicted.

The defendants are among 14 men who were charged with piracy, kidnapping and weapons violations in the hijacking of the yacht Quest in February. The other men have already entered guilty pleas and agreed to cooperate with authorities.

The Quest's owners and two friends were shot to death after being taken hostage several hundred miles south of Oman. They were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks.

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