U.S. Indicts 11 Suspected Somali Pirates

Eleven suspects were indicted Friday in a federal court in Norfolk, Va., on piracy and other counts related to attacks on U.S. Navy vessels.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

We begin this hour with suspected pirates on American shores. In Norfolk, Virginia today, 11 Somalis appeared in a federal courtroom. Prosecutors say they've been brought to the U.S. to face a number of charges that sound like they are from the 17th century, not the 21st. Among the charges, conspiracy to plunder a vessel.

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has the latest.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: If the alleged pirates had to do it again, they probably would have thought twice before attacking hulking ships in the dark of night, or at least double check what kind of ships they were. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explains.

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Spokesman, Department of State): These pirates were captured after, as part of their ongoing tactic, they came up to ships in the middle of the night only to find out that in this case they'd called upon the USS Nicholas and the USS Ashland.

TEMPLE-RASTON: The Nicholas and the Ashland are U.S. Navy warships. The two incidents happened over the past month. And in both cases, the Navy sunk the suspects' boats and took the men into custody. Then earlier this week, they were put on planes bound for Norfolk, Virginia, where they showed up today to face piracy charges in a federal courtroom.

There was heavy security at the courthouse when the men appeared. They were wearing handcuffs and prison outfits. One of the men used crutches and had a bandage wrapped around his head. All 11 stand accused of attack to plunder a vessel and assorted weapons charges.

This is not the first time we've seen accused pirates on U.S. shores recently. This time last year, Abduwali Muse arrived in New York. He's a Somali teenager detained by the U.S. Navy after a piracy incident involving a U.S. ship last spring.

In that episode, the captain of the U.S. cargo ship was taken hostage for days before sharpshooters killed his captors. Muse was the sole survivor in that attack. He has yet to stand trial.

Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.

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