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Posted at 07:00 PM ET, 03/14/2011

Five Somalis get life for piracy

A federal judge on Monday sentenced five men to life in prison for engaging in piracy and related offenses when they attacked a U.S. warship, the USS Nicholas.

Judge Mark S. Davis sentenced the five men in U.S. District Court in Norfolk..

“Today marks the longest sentence ever given to a pirate in U.S. court, following the first time in over 190 years that an American jury has convicted a defendant of piracy,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a statement. “Today’s sentences should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy: Armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels carry severe consequences in U.S. courts.”

MacBride said between 650 and 800 people are held hostage by Somali pirates and that the global cost of piracy is as high as $12 billion annually.

In November, a jury convicted the five men – Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia – of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade.

According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade.

On April 1, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar stayed on board the larger ship.

Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG. They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas.

By  |  07:00 PM ET, 03/14/2011

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