Justice Served

Justice has been served to one of the pirates behind the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama.

Abduwali Muse, of Somalia, was sentenced in New York to 34-years in federal prison for his participation in the April 8, 2009 hijacking of the container ship. The sentence also related to the subsequent taking of the captain of the ship as a hostage, as well as for his participation in the hijacking of two other vessels in late March and early April of 2009.

Muse was extradited to the United States following the April 2009 attack on the Maersk Alabama, in which kidnapped Captain Richard Phillips was rescued while three captors around him were shot dead by sailors on another vessel.

Muse had pled guilty on May 18, 2010, to two felony counts of hijacking maritime vessels, two felony counts of kidnapping, and two felony counts of hostage taking.”I ask for forgiveness to all the people that I harmed, and also the U.S. government,” Muse told the court through a Somali interpreter. “I got my hands into something that was more powerful than me.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For five days that must have seemed like an eternity to his victims, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse terrorized the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama. Now he will pay for those five days and the events leading up to them. Today’s sentence makes it clear that piracy on the high seas is a crime against the international community that will not be tolerated. I would like to recognize the extraordinary collective efforts of local, federal, and international law enforcement and pay special thanks to the men and women of the U.S. Navy, without whose bravery today’s result would not have been possible.”

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said: “I want to commend the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force members from the FBI and NYPD who worked together with the U.S. Navy and prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office to bring Abduwali Muse to justice for his hijacking the Maersk Alabama and putting innocent lives in jeopardy.”

According to the indictment to which Muse pled guilty and the criminal complaint previously filed against him:

In March 2009, Muse, a native of Somalia, and others armed with firearms boarded a ship (“Ship-1”) in the Indian Ocean. After boarding Ship-1, they threatened the captain with a firearm, seized control of the ship, and held the captain and the crew hostage on board Ship-1.

While on board Ship-1, Muse pointed a gun at one of the hostages and threatened to kill him. In addition, MUSE showed one of the hostages what appeared to be an improvised explosive device (“IED”). He placed the IED near the hostage and indicated that if the authorities came, the IED would explode and the hostage would be killed.

In April 2009, Muse and others left Ship-1 on a small boat (“skiff”). When the skiff returned to Ship-1, Ship-1 and the skiff were made to rendezvous with another ship (“Ship-2”) that was also in the Indian Ocean. After Ship-1 and the skiff arrived in the vicinity of Ship-2, the captain of Ship-1 was ordered to pull Ship-1 up to Ship-2. Ship-1 was then attached to Ship-2. Subsequently, Muse and others held hostage both the captain and the crew of Ship-1 and the captain and the crew of Ship-2.

In April 2009, Muse and three other pirates left Ship-2 and boarded the Maersk Alabama after shooting at the ship from their own boat. Each of the four pirates who boarded the Maersk Alabama, including Muse, was armed with a gun. Once on board, MUSE, who conducted himself as the leader of the pirates, demanded, among other things, that the ship be stopped. Several hours after boarding, the pirates took a life boat from the ship, on which they held hostage the captain of the ship.

Muse and the other three pirates held the captain hostage on the life boat from April 8 to April 12, 2009. During this period, in radio communications between the pirates and the U.S. Navy, the pirates threatened to kill the captain if they were not provided with safe passage away from the scene.

On April 12, 2009, Muse requested and was permitted to board the USS Bainbridge, a U.S. Navy missile destroyer that had arrived on the scene. On the USS Bainbridge, Muse continued to demand safe passage from the scene for himself and other pirates in exchange for the captain’s release. Instead, Muse was taken into custody by the U.S. Navy.

In addition to the prison term, Federal Judge Loretta Preska also imposed five years of supervised release and ordered restitution of $550,000.

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