US prosecutors charge suspected Somali pirate with hijacking additional ships

US prosecutors charge suspected Somali pirate with hijacking additional ships

[JURIST] The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a superseding indictment [press release, PDF] Tuesday against alleged Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, claiming that he led the takeover of two additional ships. Muse pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website]. The 10-count indictment does not provide the identity of the ships involved in the alleged hijackings or details about the events, but prosecutors stated [NYT report] that hostages from one of the ships remain in captivity. Muse, who was captured by US forces following an attempted attack on the container ship Maersk Alabama [corporate backgrounder], was charged [JURIST report] with five counts in April, including committing an act of piracy as defined by the law of nations, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to take hostages, and two counts relating to the use of a firearm during commission of a crime. The government believes that Muse coordinated the attack in the original indictment and presented himself as the leader of the gang. Despite difficulty in determining Muse's exact age, the SDNY has decided to try Muse as an adult.

In July, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that pirate attacks around the globe doubled in the first half of 2009. The bulk of the upsurge came from increased activity in the Gulf of Aden and Somali coastal waters, where 130 incidents occurred since January. In May, five suspected Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in Holland, accused of attempting to hijack a Dutch Antilles freighter in the Gulf of Aden. Earlier in 2009, a US Coast Guard chief called for [JURIST report] the enforcement of international piracy laws, citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. In October 2008, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia."