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Maersk Alabama hijacker on trial in NYC

New York: The first Somali national is being tried for piracy in a New York court. Teenager Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse was indicted for 10 counts of piracy-related charges on Tuesday, including holding a hostage for ransom and armed hijacking, reports Xinhua. He is expected to enter a plea on Thursday at U.S. District Court in Manhattan. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

On April 8, the American-flagged vessel Maersk Alabama was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. Muse is accused of holding hostage American captain Richard Phillips, who was freed in a daring U.S. Navy operation three days later.

In other news, Elmi Ahmed Duale, the Somali UN ambassador, said in a letter made public on Wednesday that Iran has decided to dispatch two naval vessels to the coast of Somalia to carry out protective escorts for Iranian shipping companies and anti-piracy related operations, including assisting 'other foreign vessels requesting help.'

The Iranian vessels arrived in the region of operation on May 15, and they are to stay until Oct. 21, 2009, it read. "The Islamic Republic of Iran wishes to cooperate with the Somali government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, which is acceptable to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia," the letter said.  [21/05/09]

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