Somali charged in New York in more ship hijackings
Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:57pm EST
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(Adds plea and other details)
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A Somali teenager extradited to New York last year on charges he attempted to hijack a U.S. ship in the Indian Ocean pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to taking part in two additional attacks.
Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the sole surviving accused pirate from the foiled bid to hijack U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009, entered the plea through a Somali interpreter in Manhattan federal court.
He has already pleaded not guilty to the original charges of piracy, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to commit hostage taking and related firearms offenses.
A lawyer for Muse, whose age is unknown, is expected to file papers with the court arguing that Muse should be tried as a minor. The prosecution says he is at least 18 years old.
The captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, was held hostage on a lifeboat for several days after he volunteered to go with the pirates in exchange for the crew. He was rescued when U.S. Navy snipers killed three pirates and captured Muse.
Prosecutors accuse Muse and others of hijacking two additional ships, including one that is still being held. The indictment does not name the ships or provide details about the attacks.
Muse faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Heavily armed pirates from lawless Somalia have been striking vessels in busy Indian Ocean shipping lanes and in the Gulf of Aden, capturing dozens of vessels, taking hundreds of hostages and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms. (Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Stacey Joyce)
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