Somali pirate pleads guilty in US court

The Somali man now faces up to 25 years in prison, say US justice officials.

Washington: A Somali man on Wednesday pleaded guilty in a Washington court to acts of armed piracy against a merchant ship off the Horn of Africa and now faces up to 25 years in prison, US justice officials said.

Jama Idle Ibrahim, 38, who also goes by the name Jaamac Ciidle, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit piracy and conspiracy to use a firearm, US Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement.

"Violent acts of piracy on the high seas disrupt international trade and put human life at risk," said Machen after Ibrahim entered his plea in US District Court for the District of Columbia.

"These charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others thinking of launching pirate attacks. Crimes on open waters in faraway oceans will be punished in an American courtroom," the US prosecutor said.

Officials said Ibrahim faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the piracy conspiracy count and 20 years for the firearm conspiracy count.

The charges stemmed from an incident in November 2008 in which Ibrahim and several others attacked the ship, the MV/CEC Future.

A statement issued by US officials said Ibrahim and other Somalis were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and handguns when they seized the Danish-owned vessel, which contained cargo belonging to a Texas-based company, McDermott International.

The pirates held the vessel, cargo and crew members for ransom and forced the crew to anchor in waters off the Somalia coast for more than two months. They threatened the crew and stole money, food and supplies from the ship, US officials said.

The vessel`s owners paid an unspecified sum of money for the release of the ship and its crew in January 2009.

Last month, Ibrahim pleaded guilty in Virginia to taking part in an armed attack on a US warship, USS Ashland, which he and five other Somali pirates mistook for a merchant ship.