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US gives Somali pirate negotiator life terms

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A Somali man who acted as a hostage negotiator for pirates who seized an American yacht last year and killed four American hostages has been sentenced by a US federal judge to serve 12 life sentences.

In a courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia, US District Judge Robert Doumar on Tuesday sentenced Mohammad Shibin to serve 10 concurrent life sentences, two consecutive life sentences and two 20-year sentences and ordered him to pay $5.4m in restitution.

Shibin was convicted in April on 15 charges including piracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and conspiracy.

He was paid $30,000 to $50,000 in cash for his negotiating services, according to a federal indictment.

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

Pirates commandeered an American yacht carrying Jean and Scott Adam of California and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle from Seattle in February 2011 off the coast of Somalia.

All four hostages were killed despite attempts by the US military to negotiate their release.

Lucrative ransoms

Prosecutors said Shibin was among an elite group whose skills were needed to negotiate ransoms.

"The Somalia piracy criminal enterprise could not function without skilled negotiators like Shibin and his multiple life sentences should put all pirates on notice that the Justice Department will hold you accountable in an US courtroom for crimes on the high seas," MacBride said.

According to evidence presented at trial, Shibin 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, prosecutors said.

Shibin also served as a ransom negotiator for pirates who seized the M/V Marida Marguerite in 2010.

The German-owned vessel had a crew of 22 men who were held hostage for seven months starting in May 2010 and reported being tortured.

In 2011, Somali piracy cost the world economy $7bn and earned the pirates some $160m in ransoms, according to a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau.


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