Washington: A Somali man who pleaded guilty to piracy was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in boarding a merchant ship and holding the vessel and its crew hostage for 71 days, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.
Jama Idle Ibrahim was sentenced for his role in capturing the MV CEC Future, a ship owned by Clipper Group, a Danish company.
A group of pirates, including Ibrahim, boarded the merchant ship from high-speed boats in the Gulf of Aden in November 2008.
The pirates "were armed with AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade and handguns when they attacked and seized the vessel, which contained cargo belonging to a Texas-based company, McDermott International Inc”, the statement read.
The pirates anchored the large cargo ship off the Somalia coast and held the vessel, cargo, and 13 crew members until the Clipper Group delivered USD 1.7 million in ransom on January 16, 2009.
Ibrahim, 39, pleaded guilty in early September to "conspiracy to commit piracy ... and conspiracy to use a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence," the statement read.
It is the first conviction in the US capital for a piracy related offense.
A Virginia court, however, had already sentenced Ibrahim to 30 years prison for his role in the April 10, 2010, pirate attack on the USS Ashland, a Navy ship in the Gulf of Aden.
Thursday`s sentence will run concurrently with the previous sentence, issued in November, the Justice Department said.
"Modern-day pirates are nothing like the swashbuckling heroes in Hollywood movies," said US Attorney Ronald Machen.
"Today`s pirates are ruthless criminals who hold ships and their crews hostage with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. Twenty-five years in prison is a just punishment for this attack that threatened international commerce and human life."
The sentence "should serve as a warning to those who seek to attack American interests overseas regardless of your ideology or intent -- you will be identified, located and brought to justice," James McJunkin with the Federal Bureau of Investigations.