MANHATTAN (CN) – The sole survivor of the Somali pirate group accused of attacking a U.S. cargo ship and abducting its captain was charged with piracy in Federal Court on Tuesday. Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, 18, faces five criminal counts under the law of nations over seizure of the ship and the taking of a hostage.
The piracy charge alone carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Prosecutors say Muse was the leader of the pirates and among the first to storm the Maersk Alabama on April, after shooting at the container ship from their boat. Muse has at various times claimed to be as young as 15, but apparently is 18, prosecutors said. He and another pirate allegedly were carrying guns when they forced sailors to lower a ladder so more pirates could board. Once on the ship, Muse was tackled and subdued by a hiding crew member, who tied Muse’s hands with wire and took him to the ship’s safe room.
The rest of the pirates agreed to leave the Maersk in exchange for Muse and a lifeboat, where they held Capt. Richard Phillips for four days, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Muse distributed $30,000 in cash taken from the Maersk to the other pirates on the lifeboat. Muse allegedly told Capt. Phillips that he had hijacked ships before.
Prosecutors say Muse was on a Navy ship trying to broker a deal to end the standoff when SEALs killed his comrades and rescued Capt. Phillips.
The FBI took custody of Muse from the Navy and flew him to New York.
Phillips, 53, has returned to his home in Underhill, Vt.