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French warship carrying 11 pirate suspects docks

A French naval frigate docked on Wednesday in Mombasa to hand over 11 suspected pirates to Kenyan authorities for trial over their alleged attack on a Liberian cargo ship last week.

world Updated: Apr 22, 2009 14:56 IST

A French naval frigate docked on Wednesday in Mombasa to hand over 11 suspected pirates to Kenyan authorities for trial over their alleged attack on a Liberian cargo ship last week.

The Nivose captured the suspects in France's ninth military operation against suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden, through which some 20,000 ships pass each year.

Following an agreement between Kenya and the European Union, the 11 suspects were to be tried in a Kenyan court for their alleged attempt to hijack the Safmarine Asia cargo ship, French officials said.

Other piracy suspects who allegedly attacked French citizens have been taken for trial to France, which traditionally has been aggressive in fighting piracy. The Nivose, carrying a helicopter onboard, is serving in the international fleet trying to protect the gulf's trade route.

Two white skiffs — presumably belonging to the captured piracy suspects — were seen on its deck as it pulled in Wednesday to the port in Mombasa.

Somalia's nearly 20 years of lawlessness has fueled piracy's rise. Attacks by sea nearly doubled worldwide in the first three months of 2009, according to an international maritime watchdog report on Tuesday. On Monday, pirates fired rockets at a Maltese-flagged ship off Yemen's coast.

In New York, meanwhile, the sole survivor of a pirate attack on an American cargo ship cried in a courtroom Tuesday as a dispute erupted over whether he was a juvenile or an adult, an issue that will determine whether his case will be open to the public.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck, over the objection of reporters crowded into a small courtroom, ordered the hearing closed to the public. The hearing will decide whether Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, whose age has been reported to be 15 or 18, is a juvenile or an adult.

Before court officers closed the courtroom to the media, Muse was asked if he understood that two federal defenders were being assigned to his case because he reported having no financial resources. Muse said through an interpreter: "I understand. I don't have any money."

He arrived in New York on Monday evening, handcuffed with a chain wrapped around his waist and about a dozen federal agents surrounding him. His left hand is heavily bandaged from the wound he suffered during the skirmish on the cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama. Muse, his 5-foot-2 frame so slight that his prison clothes draped loosely, at one point put his head in his uninjured hand.