Abduwali Muse

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Abduwali Muse
Born Abduwali Muse
c. 1990 (age 24–25)[1]
Galkayo, Somalia
Other names Abdulwali Abdukhad Muse,[1] Abdul Wali Muse, Wal-i-Musi
Criminal charge Maersk Alabama hijacking
Criminal penalty 33 years and 9 months imprisonment
Criminal status Incarcerated
Parent(s) Adar Abdurahman Hassan

Abduwali Muse (Somali: Cabdiweli Cabdiqaadir Muuse; pronounced [ʕɑbdɪwɛli ʕɑbdɪqɑːdɪr muːsɛ]; About this sound English pronunciation ) is a Somali ship hijacker. He is the sole survivor of four pirates who hijacked the MV Maersk Alabama in April 2009 and then held Captain Richard Phillips for ransom.[2] On February 16, 2011, Muse was sentenced to over 33 years in U.S. federal prison.[3]

Early life[edit]

Muse was born in Galkayo, a divided city in north-central Somalia. The Federal Bureau of Prisons states he was born in 1990,[1] while his mother states he was born in 1992,[4][5] and his father states he was born in 1993.[6][7][8]

At a hearing to determine Muse's age, Assistant United States Attorney Brendan McGuire informed U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck, that Muse had told Americans he was variously 16, 18, 19 and 26 years old.

Muse is short in stature—Colleen Long and Larry Neumeister, writing for the Associated Press, reported that Muse was, "only five foot two inches (157 cm) tall."[9]

Attack on the Maersk Alabama[edit]

Further information: Maersk Alabama hijacking

According to his indictment, Muse was the first of the four men who boarded the Maersk Alabama. During the attack, he was stabbed in the hand by a sailor. The crew tied Muse up for 12 hours and offered him in exchange for the Alabama's captain, Richard Phillips.[10] Muse was thought to be the first person to be charged with piracy in an American court in more than 100 years,[11] when courts ruled in 1885 that the Ambrose Light was not a pirate vessel. A more recent case, 2008's United States v. Shi,[12] which was quoted in his indictment, involves murder and a crew member taking over a ship and holding a hostage.[13]

He was portrayed by Barkhad Abdi in the 2013 film Captain Phillips, a dramatization of the events in 2009, also starring Tom Hanks as the titular character.

Additional attacks[edit]

In 2010, Muse was charged in connection with two additional attacks on international shipping.[14][15] The indictment does not name the two vessels involved, hijacked in March and April 2009. However, they are likely to include the 700-tonne fishing vessel Win Far 161, which was used as a mother ship in other attacks, including the Maersk Alabama hijacking.[16][17] Two of the Win Far 161's crew, one sailor from mainland China and the other from Indonesia, died of illness.[18]


Muse was tried in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in New York City.[19]

As mentioned, there was some confusion as to his age. According to the New York Daily News, he was at the time 17 to 19 years old.[2] Muse was charged, and was to stand trial in New York because of the local FBI office's expertise in handling cases where major crimes were perpetrated against Americans in Africa, such as the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. CBC News also reported that U.S. authorities had considered transferring him to authorities in Kenya per international agreement to prosecute pirate suspects.[5][20]

When initially captured, U.S. officials reported Muse as being 16 to 20 years old, and that his name was Abduhl Wali-i-Musi. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also asserted that all four pirate suspects were between the ages of 17 and 19. On April 20, 2009, CBC News reported that U.S. officials indicated that investigators had confirmed Muse was over 18, which precluded additional legal steps to prosecute him.[5]

However, Muse's mother, Adar Abdurahman Hassan, stated in a telephone interview with the Associated Press that U.S. authorities had both his name and age wrong.[5] She indicated that he was only 16 years old and that his name was Abdi Wali Abdulqadir Muse. In an interview with the BBC Somali service, Muse's mother also appealed to the U.S. government and president to free her son,[21] asserting that Muse had been lured into pirate activity by wealthy criminals.[5]

According to Ron Kuby, a lawyer who has considered offering his services to Muse:[5]

I think in this particular case, there's a grave question as to whether America was in violation of principles of truce in warfare on the high seas. This man seemed to come onto the Bainbridge under a flag of truce to negotiate. He was then captured. There is a question whether he is lawfully in American custody and serious questions as to whether he can be prosecuted because of his age.[5]

In a court ruling on April 21, 2009, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck decided Muse was not under 18 and that he could be tried as an adult.[22] Muse was then brought to New York to face trial on charges including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, and firearms related charges, carrying a potential of up to four life sentences.[23] The charge of piracy has a mandatory life sentence (18 USC 1651),[24] and there is no parole in U.S. federal prisons.

On May 19, 2009, a federal grand jury in New York returned a ten-count indictment against Muse.[25]

Muse pled guilty to the hijacking, kidnapping and hostage-taking charges on May 18, 2010.[26] Charges of piracy and possession of a machine gun were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.[27]

On February 16, 2011, Muse was sentenced to 33 years and 9 months in federal prison.[28] Register Number: 70636-054. As of February 2014, he is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Inmate Locator". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 22 February 2014. ABDULWALI ABDUKHAD MUSE, AGE: 24, Register Number: 70636-054 
  2. ^ a b Pearson, Erica (17 April 2009). "Free and frisky: Maersk Alabama sailor William Rios, held by Somali pirates, rejoins wife in Harlem". Daily News (New York). Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. It was not known when he will be brought to stand trial in New York, chosen because the local FBI office has a history of handling cases in Africa involving major crimes against Americans. The suspect, believed to be 17 to 19 years old, could face life in prison if convicted. 
  3. ^ Hays, Tom (16 February 2011). "Somali pirate gets over 33 years in prison". News.Yahoo.com. AAP. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Pirate mother's Obama mercy plea". BBC. 20 April 2009. Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Somali pirate being flown to New York to be tried in U.S. federal court". CBC News. 20 April 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. 
  6. ^ Jonathon Dienst, Victoria Cavaliere (20 April 2009). "Captured Somali Pirate Due in NY Court Tomorrow". NBC News. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. 
  7. ^ Benjamin Weiser (21 April 2009). "Pirate Suspect Charged as Adult in New York". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Colleen Long, Larry Neumeister (22 April 2009). "Somali Charged With Piracy in Attack on U.S. Ship". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. 
  9. ^ Colleen Long, Larry Neumeister (21 April 2009). "Pirate comes to NY, world away from home in Africa". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. 
  10. ^ "Africa | FBI in hostage talks with Somalis". BBC News. 9 April 2009. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  11. ^ Pilkington, Ed (21 April 2009). "Somali teen faces first US piracy charges in over a century". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  12. ^ "United States v. Shi". Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  13. ^ Ellis, Steven M. (25 April 2008). "Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Chinese Man's Piracy Conviction". Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Metropolitan News Company). Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  14. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (12 January 2010). "Somali Man Is Charged in 2 More Ship Hijackings". New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Maersk Alabama suspect charged in two other piracy incidents". CNN. 12 January 2010. 
  16. ^ Huang-chih, Chiang (7 September 2009). "Does MOFA care about ‘Win Far’?". Taipei Times. 
  17. ^ "Somali pirates free Taiwanese fishing boat". BBC News. 11 February 2010. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  18. ^ "Hijacked Taiwan fishing boat Win Far 161 escorted home". Whats On Xiamen. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Somali 'pirate' to be tried in US". BBC. 17 April 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2009. 
  20. ^ "Captured Somalian pirate to face trial in U.S.". CBC News. 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. If Wal-i-Musi is under 18, federal prosecutors would have to take a number of additional steps to justify charging him in federal court. 
  21. ^ "Mother of boy accused of piracy speaks to the BBC". BBC World Service. 21 April 2009. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  22. ^ "Indictment 21 April 2009" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  23. ^ "Somali 'pirate' appears in court". BBC. 21 April 2009. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  24. ^ http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1651"USC: Title 18: Part I: Chapter 81: § 165118 USC § 1651 - Piracy under law of nations"]. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School.
  25. ^ "Indictment (U.S. v. Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse)". FindLaw. 19 May 2009. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  26. ^ "Somali man pleads guilty to seizing US merchant ship". BBC News. 18 May 2010. 
  27. ^ Rivera, Ray; Benjamin Weiser (18 May 2010). "Somali Man Pleads Guilty in 2009 Hijacking of Cargo Ship". New York Times. 
  28. ^ "Somali pirate sentenced to 33 years in US prison". BBC News. 16 February 2011. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 

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