Somali pleads guilty to piracy, hostage taking

By BROCK VERGAKIS | May 20, 2011 | 12:43 PM EDT

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Somali man who acknowledged commanding a pirate group has pleaded guilty to piracy and hostage taking charges in the hijacking of a yacht that left four Americans dead.

Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali pleaded guilty in federal court in Norfolk, Va., on Friday.

He is among 15 people from Somalia and Yemen facing charges related to the February hijacking of the yacht Quest.

The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death after being taken hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.

Ali faces life in prison at sentencing, although that may be reduced as part of the plea agreement.