A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, has convicted a Somali hostage negotiator who was apprehended last year by US forces in an unusual onshore secret operation.
The negotiator, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, was found guilty on 15 counts, including piracy, for his role in the incident involving the US yacht Quest in February 2011 and the hijacking of a German-owned combined chemical and oil tanker, the 2008-built, 13,168 dwt Marida Marguerite, which was held off the coast of Somalia from May to December 2010.Four US nationals on Quest were killed.
Shibin could be jailed for life at his sentencing, currently scheduled for August 13.
Shibin’s appearance at his indictment in Norfolk in April last year elicited much interest, as his arrest was said to mark the first time US forces went ashore in Somalia in pursuit of suspected pirates.
“This conviction is particularly important in two respects,” maritime regulatory consultant Dennis Bryant said.
“First, all acts for which Mr Shibin was convicted occurred ashore, which shows an effort to move enforcement of piracy up the food chain from just the individuals on the pirate skiff.
“Second, the convictions related to Marida Marguerite demonstrate a willingness on the part of the US to not limit enforcement and prosecution of pirates to just those involving vessels of its own registry.”
Shibin’s conviction for an attack on a non-US ship follows the sentencing in April last year of pirate Jaamac Ciidle for the November 2008-January 2009 hijacking of Clipper Group’s 1994-built, 7,120 dwt general cargoship CEC Future.
US Attorney Neil MacBride said: “Today’s verdict marks the conviction of the highest-ranking Somali pirate ever brought to the US.
“Shibin was among an élite fraternity of pirate negotiators — the vital link to any successful pirate attack. His skills were essential to obtain a ransom for those who attacked the vessel and the financiers who paid for the attack.”