updated 4/16/2009 8:14:02 PM ET 2009-04-17T00:14:02

The captured Somali pirate who held a merchant ship captain hostage will be brought to New York to face trial, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The suspect, identified as Abduhl 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.

The official said it was not immediately clear when Wal-i-Musi will be brought to New York. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose information about an ongoing investigation.

Officials at the FBI office in New York did not immediately comment.

The government had been weighing whether to bring the suspect to trial in the United States or hand him over to authorities in Kenya, which has an international agreement to prosecute pirates.

Since the hostage standoff on the high seas ended Sunday, U.S. authorities have been examining details of the case, particularly Wal-i-Musi's age.

Initially, he was thought to be between 16 years and 20 years of age, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates later said all four of the pirates involved were between ages 17 and 19.

If he is under 18, federal prosecutors must take a number of additional steps to justify charging him in federal court.

Though no charges have been publicly filed yet, the suspect could face charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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