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Default Suspected pirates face US trail - 11-09-2010, 04:46 PM

Five Somali men accused of firing at a US Navy ship off the coast of Africa are set to face the first US piracy trial in more than 100 years.
The suspects apparently mistook the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas for a merchant ship, west of the Seychelles, court documents said.
They allegedly fired on the ship which was patrolling the area for pirates; it shot back, forcing the men to flee.
The men were later captured and brought back to the US to stand trial.
The USS Nicholas piracy trial is thought to be the first in the US in at least a century, according to legal and maritime scholars, says the Associated Press news agency.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Monday, with jurors to be questioned about their prior knowledge of Somali piracy and whether they have served on the Nicholas or other US Navy ships.
The trial, which is taking place in Norfolk, Virginia, is expected to last for about a month. Piracy carries a mandatory life sentence.
Norfolk is the home of the world's largest naval base and the home port of the Nicholas.
Night attack
The charges against the men include piracy, attacking to plunder a maritime vessel, and assault with a dangerous weapon.
According to documents filed in federal court, in March the crew of five young defendants, mostly fishermen in their mid-20s, set sail from Somalia in search of a merchant vessel to plunder.
Their ship carried food and fuel and had two smaller skiffs tied to it, which prosecutors say were to serve as attack craft. The men were armed with assault weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade, prosecutors said.
One of the defendants, Mohammed Mohdin Hassan, told investigators he had been promised $30,000 (18,552) for a successful mission, according to court documents.
About eight days later, on the high seas and under cover of night, Mr Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali and Abdi Wali Dire boarded one of the attack craft and set out to attack what they believed was a merchant ship.
In fact, the ship was the Nicholas, which had been deployed to the east coast of Africa on an anti-piracy mission.
Mr Hasan and Mr Dire brought the attack skiff close to the Nicholas and opened fire, prosecutors said. The Nicholas returned fire and gave chase, capturing the defendents and taking them aboard the ship and destroying their skiff.
The men then confessed to the attack and said they believed the Nicholas was a merchant ship they could capture and hold for ransom, prosecutors said.
In court documents, Mr Ali is described as an impoverished 26-year-old fisherman and Mr Dire, 26, is a former bus conductor turned fisherman, and is also impoverished. Lawyers for Mr Hasan say he does not know his age but have argued he was under 18 when he was captured and should be treated as a juvenile.
The five suspects were arrested in April, along with six others who were captured a few days later in waters near Djibouti after allegedly shooting at the USS Ashland, an amphibious vessel.
Pirates operating off the African coast have intensified attacks on shipping in recent years.
With piracy increasing, there have been calls for international courts to be set up to deal with the problem.

Last edited by Tamara; 11-09-2010 at 04:49 PM.
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