The lone-surviving Somali pirate who hijacked the Maersk Alabama food aid ship earlier this month is expected in a New York courtroom as early as tomorrow to face charges in the brazen attack, law enforcement officials said.
The suspect, identified as Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, arrived in New York Monday night.
Wal-i-Musi was taken aboard a U.S. Navy ship shortly before Navy SEAL snipers killed the three remaining pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat launched from his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama.
One of the officials says that investigators have determined that the suspect is at least 18 years old, meaning prosecutors will not have to take extra legal steps to put him on trial in U.S. court. His mother told the Associated Press that she hoped to appeal to President Barack Obama to pardon her son, who she claims is 16-years-old.
The Alabama's skipper finally arrived back home on Friday after surviving the terrifying ordeal on the Indian Ocean.
"I'm not a hero, the military is," Captain Phillips said, appearing healthy and invigorated as he arrived in the U.S. last Friday. "I am just a bit part in this story, the small part of a seaman doing the best he can like all the other seamen out there."
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Pirates took over the Alabama briefly before the captain surrendered himself in exchange for the safety of his 19-member crew. Phillips was freed Sunday after five days of being held hostage in a lifeboat when U.S. Navy SEAL snipers on the destroyer USS Bainbridge killed three of his captors.
The Alabama crew had scuffled with the pirates, wounding one of them with an ice pick, in taking back control of their ship. The bandits fled the ship with Phillips as their captive, holding him in the lifeboat in a high-stakes standoff until the SEAL sharpshooters took action, killing three pirates in an instant with deadly sniper shots to the head.
Wal-i-Musi could face life in prison when charged, but authorities are trying to determine his age. It was initially reported that he was 16 years old. Later Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the pirates were between ages of 17 and 19. If the pirate is determined to be younger than 18, then federal prosecutors will have to take additional steps before charging him in federal court.