Somali hostage negotiator charged with kidnapping

Somali hostage negotiator charged with kidnapping

"The arrest of Mohammad Shibin is a significant breakthrough in the United States' battle against Somali pirates," said US Attorney Neil H MacBride.

He carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

"Today marks the first time that the US government has captured and charged an alleged pirate in a leadership role – a hostage negotiator who operated in Somalia," he said.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin aka "Khalif Ahmed Shibin" aka "Shibin", 50, of Somalia, was indicted on March 8, by a federal grand jury in Norfolk, Virginia, in association with the alleged pirating of an American yacht, the 'S/V Quest', and taking hostage four US citizens, who were ultimately killed before their release could be secured.

The indictment remained sealed until Shibin made a court appearance on April 13.
Fourteen co-conspirators were indicted the same day and are awaiting a jury trial currently scheduled to begin on November 29.

"As fourteen heavily armed men holed-up aboard the Quest, Mohammad Shibin allegedly worked behind the scenes determining exactly how much cash could be extorted for the Americans' safe release," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice K Fedarcyk.

According to the indictment, Shibin was not among the conspirators who allegedly sailed the high seas and eventually boarded the Quest on February 18 holding four US citizens hostage for five days.

As the US military attempted to negotiate with the alleged pirates to attempt to free the hostages, they were informed by one of the conspirators on the Quest that Shibin was the person responsible for negotiating the return of the hostages on board the Quest upon their arrival in Somalia.

The indictment alleges that during this period of negotiation, Shibin conducted research on the Internet to learn about the hostages on the Quest and determine the amount of ransom to demand, along with the identity of family members of the hostages whom he could contact about the ransom.

While the military continued its negotiations, at least one of the alleged pirates on board the Quest fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a US Navy ship, the USS Sterett.

That same day – without provocation – at least three of the men on the Quest allegedly intentionally shot and killed the four hostages before their release could be secured.
Following the shooting of the hostages, the Somalis on the high seas were taken into custody by the US military.

Court records allege that the men possessed an RPG and several AK-47 and FAL assault rifles.

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