Man In US Court On Piracy Charge

A man is to face piracy charges in the US after allegedly acting as a go-between on behalf of ransom-seeking Somali pirates.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin, 50, was indicted in Norfolk, Virginia, on Thursday, on 15 counts after allegedly representing the captors of combination tanker Marida Marguerite in hostage talks.

The German-owned 9,998 dwt vessel, built in 2008, was carrying 22 people when it was seized in May 2010. Mr Shibin allegedly received between $30,000 and $50,000 for securing each release.

He was subsequently captured by US forces who stormed the hijacked American yacht Quest in February this year, during an incident in which four US nationals on board were killed.

US attorney Neil MacBride said: “Mr Shibin is alleged to be among the select few who are entrusted with one of the most important tasks in Somali piracy: ensuring a ship’s owners pay the maximum amount of ransom possible for the release of a hijacked vessel.

“The ransom paid for the Marida Marguerite capped a year where authorities estimate pirates received more than $100m in ransom payments. The role he’s accused of fulfilling for pirates on the Marida Marguerite is the same role he allegedly intended to fill for the Quest.”

The case is aimed at the heart of the piracy business, striking at the small group of men who pocket millions of dollars from piracy, Mr MacBride added.

Mr Shibin faces two counts of piracy, two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, two counts of hostage taking, two counts of conspiracy to commit violence, two counts of violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, kidnapping, and three counts of using a firearm during a violent crime.

■• At least 20 Somali pirates were reportedly captured by military forces loyal to the government of the breakaway Puntland region last night, according to local radio broadcasts monitored by the BBC.

Puntland security minister General Khalif Issa Mudan told Radio Garowe: “Our forces captured 10 pirates in the outskirts of [Bargal] town and 10 pirates within the coastal town.”

A delegation of Puntland government officials visiting interior and coastal towns in the Bari region, where the commercial port city of Bosaso is located, “will not leave Bargal until security is restored and pirates are removed”, Gen Mudan added.

In addition, another breakaway enclave claims to have reached agreement with unnamed Chinese business interests to extend the port of Berbera and to construct a refinery and new roads.

A statement issued by Somaliland president Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo on Thursday night said negotiations had taken place in Hong Kong with parties experienced in financing and building infrastructure projects in developing countries and further details would be released soon, Reuters reported.

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