5 Somalis convicted in USS Ashland case
28 February 2013, 14:11
Norfolk - Five Somali men were convicted of piracy on Wednesday
for the 2010 attack on the USS Ashland off the coast of Africa.
A sixth man who claimed to be the group's leader had already
pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified that they thought they were
attacking a merchant ship when one of his crew members fired an AK-47 at the
Prosecutors said the men intended to board the ship and hold
it for ransom, a common practice in Somalia. But before that could happen, the
Virginia-based amphibious dock landing ship returned fire with a 25mm cannon,
killing one man and setting the pirates' skiff on fire.
Defence attorneys had argued to the federal jury that the
men were returning to Somalia after ferrying refugees to Yemen when they came
across the ship in the Gulf of Aden. They said an AK-47 was fired in the
Ashland's direction to get its attention so it could help them after they were
wandering around lost at sea.
Jama Idle Ibrahim, the self-proclaimed pirate crew's leader,
said it was his idea to tell Navy investigators that story when they were in
the water awaiting rescue. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of
getting his 30-year sentence eventually reduced.
Each of the other men convicted of piracy face a mandatory
life sentence plus additional time for other related charges.
"These men were pirates - plain and simple," US Attorney
Neil MacBride said in a statement. "They attacked a ship hoping to hold it
ransom for millions of dollars. Few crimes are older than piracy on the high
seas, and today's verdict shows that the United States takes it very
A federal judge had dismissed the piracy charges because the
men never boarded or robbed the ship. But a federal appeals court reversed that
decision, sending the case back to trial.