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US jury finds Somali pirates guilty of kidnapping American journalist

Saturday February 25, 2023



Michael Scott Moore was seized in January 2012 in Galkayo.

Minneapolis (HOL) - Two accused pirates, Mohamed Tahlil Mohamed and Abdi Yusuf Hassan, have been found guilty of six charges, including conspiracy to provide material support for acts of terrorism, hostage-taking, and threatening a U.S. national with a weapon of mass destruction for their role in the 2012 abduction of a German-American journalist.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, welcomed the conviction in a statement released on Friday.

"Today, a unanimous jury found two key players in Moore's years-long captivity guilty on all counts: Mohamed Tahlil Mohamed and Abdi Yusuf Hassan. Tahlil, a Somali Army officer, left his post to take command of the pirates holding Moore captive and obtained the machine guns and grenade launchers used to threaten and hold Moore. Hassan, the Minister of Interior and Security for the province in Somalia where Moore was held hostage, abused his government position and led the pirates' efforts to extort a massive ransom from Moore's mother," said the U.S. Attorney.

Williams added that the verdict reinforces America's willingness to prosecute international kidnappers.

"Today's guilty verdicts show that neither time nor distance can weaken our resolve to hold those who dare to take Americans hostage overseas fully accountable for their crimes, and to see justice done for the victims of such brutal and brazen attacks against Americans."

Abdi Yusuf Hassan, 51, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Somalia, allegedly served as a translator and was accused of negotiating Moore's ransom. At one point, Hassan urged Moore's family to sell their house to pay the ransom. He was arrested in February 2019 in Minneapolis and held without bail until his trial after a judge deemed him a flight risk and "danger to the community."

Hassan claimed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection that he worked for the Minister of the Interior and Security for Galmudug State in Somalia. He said a significant part of that job was to arrange for the release of a kidnapped person in Galmudug.

Abdi Yusuf Hassan / Sherburne County Jail/Star Tribune via AP

According to Moore, the pirates initially demanded $20 million for his freedom, but his mother reportedly negotiated the price down to a $1.6 million ransom payment. He was released in September 2014.

Moore, who published a book last year about his ordeal titled "Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast," was working as a freelancer for the German publication Spiegel Online in Galkayo, 400 miles northeast of the capital Mogadishu in January 2012 while doing research for a book on piracy.

Two months after Moore's release, he was contacted on Facebook by one of his kidnappers, Mohamed Tahlil Mohamed. In his book, Moore wrote that Tahlil was "the boss" of the Somali guards.

"I hope you are fine," Mr. Tahlil said. "The pirates who held you hostage killed each other over group vendetta and money issues."

It's unclear how Tahlil was apprehended, but court documents show that he was arraigned and jailed in New York City in the summer of 2018.

Mohamed Tahlil Mohamed and Abdi Yusuf Hassan face life in prison when they are sentenced later this year.


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