Federal appeals panel clarifies piracy definition

A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled on the legal definition of piracy and says a person does not necessarily have to board a ship to be charged with piracy.

U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride says the ruling Wednesday strengthens prosecutors' ability to go after people who attack U.S. vessels.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says a lower court should not have allowed piracy charges to be dropped against five other Somalis in an attack on the USS Ashland in waters off the African coast in 2010. It was not immediately clear whether those Somalis would again be charged.

The panel also upheld the convictions and life sentences of five Somali men who attacked the USS Nicholas in 2010.