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U.S. brings first case against alleged Somali pirate leader

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
An alleged Somali pirate leader has been indicted in the kidnapping and deaths of four Americans.
An alleged Somali pirate leader has been indicted in the kidnapping and deaths of four Americans.
  • Four Americans died during the hijacking of a yacht in February
  • The purported leader of alleged pirates was arrested in Somalia on April 4
  • A prosecutor says the indictment marks the first U.S. prosecution of a pirate leader

Washington (CNN) -- An alleged Somali pirate leader has been indicted for the takeover of the yacht Quest and the kidnapping of four Americans who subsequently were killed during the incident.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin, 50, appeared at a detention hearing in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon after the indictment against him was unsealed. He will remain in federal custody.

"Today marks the first time that the U.S. government has captured and charged an alleged pirate in a leadership role -- a hostage negotiator who operated in Somalia," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a written statement. MacBride went on to say the arrest and charges against Shibin should "send a strong message to all pirates that they are not beyond the reach of the FBI, whether they board the ships or remain on-shore in Somalia."

According to the indictment, one of the alleged pirates aboard the Quest identified Shibin as the person who would negotiate the terms for the release of the four Americans. The document says Shibin did Internet research about the hostages on the Quest "to determine the amount of ransom to demand and the identity of family members of the hostages whom he could contact about the ransom."

An FBI official said Shibin was arrested in Somalia on April 4 by "host nation security." FBI agents were at the scene of the arrest, though law enforcement officials would not provide details beyond that the FBI worked with Somali forces on the ground.

Shibin and 14 co-conspirators are charged with piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and possession and use of a firearm during a crime of violence. The men are scheduled to go on trial November 29 and they face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

The U.S. military and an FBI negotiator had been trying to win the safe release of the hostages aboard the Quest. The February hijacking off the coast of Oman ended when some of the pirates on the yacht allegedly shot and killed Americans Scott and Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle.