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Sources: FBI agents in Somalia for arrest of alleged pirate

By Carol Cratty, CNN
  • It is the first time the U.S. arrested an alleged pirate in Somalia
  • Mohammad Shinbin was indicted in the takeover of a yacht and deaths of four Americans
  • He and 14 others are set to go on trial November 29

Washington (CNN) -- FBI agents were on the scene in Somalia when an alleged Somali pirate leader was arrested earlier this month, two law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the FBI worked with Somali forces on the ground to arrest Mohammad Saaili Shinbin, 50, on April 4.

Shinbin has been indicted in the takeover of the yacht Quest and the kidnappings of four Americans who were killed during the incident.

Shinbin appeared at a detention hearing in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, on Wednesday 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 Wednesday.

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."

Shinbin's arrest marked the first time the United States arrested an alleged Somali pirate in Somalia. He is also the first alleged pirate leader to be arrested.

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. U.S. forces who boarded the yacht on February 18 found all four dead.