NORFOLK, Virginia -- A Somali man who admitted his role in an attack on a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of Africa was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison under an agreement that could return him to court to testify against five countrymen accused in the attack.
Jama Idle Ibrahim was sentenced in U.S. District Court on three charges: an attack to plunder a vessel, an act of violence against persons on a vessel, and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
He entered a guilty plea to the charges in August for his role in the April 10 attack on the USS Ashland, a Virginia-based amphibious dock landing ship.
Ibrahim agreed to cooperate with the government in their prosecution of five other defendants charged in the case, according to terms of the plea agreement.
Ibrahim also faces sentencing in Washington, D.C., on two charges related to the November 2008 attack on a Danish ship. Its crew was held hostage for 71 days.
He entered a guilty plea in September to conspiracy to commit piracy and conspiracy to use a firearm in a crime of violence.
Ibrahim faces 25 years in prison in that case, but he would serve that term concurrently with the Virginia sentence, according to the plea agreement.
The Ashland defendants were scheduled for trial last summer but a judge dismissed the piracy charge, which carried a mandatory life term. The government is appealing that dismissal. The five defendants still face plundering, firearms and other charges.
Last Wednesday, five Somali nationals involved in an April 1 attack on the USS Nicholas were found guilty of piracy and 13 other counts. Their sentencing is scheduled for March 14.
That piracy conviction was the first in a U.S. court in nearly 200 years.
"Piracy is a growing threat throughout the world, and today's sentencing, along with last week's convictions, demonstrates that the United States will hold modern-day pirates accountable in U.S. courtrooms," U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a statement.
The Ashland and the Nicholas, a frigate, were part of an international flotilla patrolling the pirate-infested waters off Somalia.
The government said the accused in both incidents believed the Navy ships were merchant vessels.