The 17,000-ton container ship Maersk Alabama, seen in an undated handout image by Maersk Line, was captured by Somalian pirates about 500 kilometers off the coast of Somalia on April 8, 2009. American Captain Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont, is being held hostage by the pirates as the U.S. Navy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) work for his safe release from the captors. (UPI Photo/Maersk)
NEW YORK, May 19 (UPI) -- A young Somali pirate has pleaded guilty in New York in a rare U.S. prosecution of a high-seas hijacker.
Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Tuesday to charges he helped commandeer the American-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia last year and took its captain hostage, The New York Times reported.
The high seas hijacking was ended by U.S. Navy SEALs after a five-day standoff, when sharpshooters killed three of the pirates.
"What we did was wrong," Muse said in court speaking through an interpreter. "I am very, very sorry for the harm we did. The reason for this is the problems in Somalia."
Muse, believed to be a teenager, is to be sentenced Oct. 19. Prosecutors said they would seek a sentence of at least 27 years with a maximum of nearly 34 years.
Douglas B. Stevenson of the Center for Seafarers' Rights at the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey told the Times the case is "a very important step" in the fight against piracy.
"Every country in the world has an obligation to help eradicate piracy, and has the jurisdiction to prosecute pirates wherever they're found," he said. "Right now, it's a pretty low-risk, high-reward endeavor to be a pirate in the waters off Somalia."