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Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 16:49 UK

Pirate mother's Obama mercy plea

A Somali pirate on board a French yacht on 10 April 2009
Pirates have stepped up attacks on shipping in recent weeks

The mother of a teenage alleged pirate held over the hostage-taking of a US sea captain this month has appealed to US President Barack Obama to free him.

Adar Abdurahman Hassan told the BBC her son, Abde Wale Abdul Kadhir Muse, was innocent and just 16 years old.

He was held over the seizure off Somalia of Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship.

While her son was allegedly negotiating on a US warship, naval snipers shot dead three pirates holding the captain.

The mother of the teenager, who is facing trial in New York, said she wanted to be present in court if the case goes ahead.

'Under-age'

Mrs Hassan said her son had been missing for two weeks prior to the hijacking and she only realised he had been implicated when she heard his name in a radio report.

The teenager is accused of being a member of the pirate gang which boarded the container ship on 8 April and took Capt Phillips hostage in a lifeboat.

The standoff ended on the fifth day while her son was aboard a US warship allegedly demanding a ransom when US Navy marksmen killed three of the pirates.

Mrs Hassan told the BBC's Somali service: "I am requesting the American government, I am requesting President Obama to release my child. He has got nothing to do with the pirates' crime.

"He is a minor; he is under-age and he has been used for this crime. I also request from the US, if they choose to put him on trial, I want them to invite me there."

I am requesting President Obama to release my child, he has got nothing to do with the pirates' crime, he is a minor
Adar Abdurahman Hassan
Mother of alleged pirate

Her plea came as Somali pirates released a Togo-flagged cargo ship seized last week, reportedly after a $100,000 (£68,000) ransom was paid.

The 5,000-tonne Lebanese-owned MV Sea Horse - which had been heading to India to pick up food aid for Somalia - was seized on 14 April.

Capt Richard Phillips (centre) hugs his children back in America on 17 April 2009
Capt Richard Phillips has been hailed as a hero back home

But 19 foreign vessels and more than 300 sailors remain in the hands of Somali pirates, who have stepped up attacks on shipping in recent weeks.

About three million people - half the Somali population - need assistance, donors say.

On Sunday, the weak, internationally recognised Somali government said captured pirates could face the death penalty.

But the Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective administration since 1991, fuelling the lawlessness which has allowed piracy to thrive.

Shipping companies last year handed over about $80m (£54m) in ransom payments to the gangs.



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