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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 10:22 UK

US charges Somali man with piracy

Courtroom sketch showing Mr Muse at a hearing on 21 April
The suspect's actual age has been disputed

A young Somali man captured by the US during the rescue of an American sea captain from pirates has been indicted in New York on multiple piracy charges.

Abde Wale Abdul Kadhir Muse faces 10 counts including piracy, holding a hostage for ransom and armed hijacking.

He is due to be in court on Thursday when he is expected to enter a plea.

Mr Muse's mother has said he is only 16 years old but prosecutors argue he is over 18 and a judge last month ruled he should be tried as an adult.

He is believed to be the first person to face piracy charges in the US in over a century and faces life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have accused Mr Muse of being the ringleader of a pirate gang which boarded a container ship, the Maersk Alabama, on 8 April and took Capt Richard Phillips hostage in a lifeboat.

After a five-day stand-off, US Navy marksmen killed three of the pirates and captured Mr Muse who had gone aboard a US warship, allegedly to demand a ransom.

Defence lawyers say Mr Muse is a bewildered teenager and should be tried as a juvenile.

Mr Muse's mother has previously told the BBC's Somali service her son is completely innocent.

Mr Muse is set to appear before Judge Loretta Preska in the US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday, but any trial could be months away, the New York Times reports.

Heavily armed pirates operating off the coast of Somalia carry out regular attacks on shipping in recent weeks in one of the world's busiest sea lanes, despite patrols by the US and other navies.

Shipping companies last year handed over about $80m (£54m) in ransom payments to the gangs.



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