US & Canada

Somali pirate negotiator given 12 life sentences in US

Mohammad Saaili Shibin being led into a van by a US police officer (file pic)
Image caption Shibin's lawyer has said he intends to appeal against the convictions

A Somali man who acted as a hostage negotiator during the hijacking of an American yacht has been given 12 life sentences by a US judge.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin had been found guilty in April of piracy, kidnapping and hostage-taking over the 2011 hijacking of the SV Quest, near Oman.

Prosecutors said he received at least $30,000 (£18,475) for negotiating ransom payments.

All four Americans on board the boat were shot and killed.

At a courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia, US District Judge Robert Doumar sentenced Shibin to serve 10 concurrent life sentences, two consecutive life sentences and two 20-year sentences and ordered him to pay $5.4m (£3.4m) in restitution.

"Mohammad Shibin was a key participant in two of the most heinous acts of piracy in modern memory," prosecutor Neil MacBride said in a statement.

The court was told that Shibin had researched the background of the hostages over the internet to determine how much ransom to demand and to find family members to contact for the payments.

Shibin was arrested by the FBI and military officials in Somalia in April 2011.

His lawyer has said he intends to appeal against his conviction.

Two Somalis also charged in the case pleaded guilty last year and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Several others involved in the hijacking have also received life terms, while some face murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty.

The couple who owned the boat, as well as two guests, were shot dead after a gang of 19 pirates took them hostage in the Indian Ocean.

The four - Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay, of Seattle - were the first Americans to die in a spate of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

Two of the pirates were killed by US forces and another two were found dead on the pirates' vessel. It is unclear how they died.

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