USA – The lead hijacker of the MV Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia nearly 10 years ago has lost nearly half of the teeth in his mouth, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed from prison.
Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, who was portrayed by Oscar-winner Barkhad Abdi in the 2013 blockbuster film Captain Phillips, is a little over seven years into a sentence of 33 years and nine months at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana for his part in the crime.
The suit was filed quietly last year by Muse, who became known as the “Smiling Pirate” for the wide grin he wore during his first perp walk in America. He’s seeking $1.15 million in damages from a prison dentist and two other medical personnel, plus their firing. He claims the prison staffers’ “deliberate indifference” to his dental needs has resulted in the loss of at least 15 of his 32 teeth. He says he can no longer “properly chew, eat, or consume vital nutrients,” and describes the pain as “unbearable.”
Abduwali Muse shortly after arriving in America to face piracy charges.
Muse is the sole surviving hijacker from the taking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009. The hijacking “was a pretty classic piece of piracy,” said retired British Army Colonel John Steed, who headed the UN’s counter-piracy operations in Somalia at one time and now oversees operations in the Horn of Africa for Oceans Beyond Piracy, a U.S.-based NGO. “Two skiffs coming alongside a ship, putting up a ladder, getting onboard, threatening the crew, getting them to phone their company, et cetera. The difference with the Alabama case is how it was resolved—it was one of the most audacious sea hostage rescues we’ve ever seen.”
In the course of researching an article on maritime piracy, Muse and I corresponded by mail for a brief period at the end of 2013, and he mentioned his dental woes in a letter he sent to me from FCI Terre Haute. In his first letter, he told me to call him “Musa,” since that’s what everyone else did.
The handwriting is his, as it matches court documents that he personally filled out and signed. It is a near-certainty that a native English speaker coached him very heavily for the letters.
I asked him about the Alabama hijacking, but Muse insisted he couldn’t say much about it since he had appeals pending. (He has since lost those appeals.) He said his plan had been to work as a fisherman in what he described as a “small village on the ocean,” a place identified in a sentencing memorandum as Garacad, “one of a number of piracy centers” in the semi-autonomous province of Puntland.
Muse said he had never seen Captain Phillips, the movie. He said he would probably watch if it was ever shown on the prison TV system.
Muse makes $19 a month working as a prison orderly, though he sees considerably less than that on payday. The judge in his case ordered his wages garnished to pay the $550,000 in restitution he owes for the hijacking, plus a court fee of $600 due upon conviction.