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Pirates could face trial outside homeland

CAPTURED Somali pirates could soon face trial and serve jail sentences outside their homeland under a pact being negotiated between American officials and regional allies, the head of a new United States anti-piracy task force said yesterday.

The lack of an international framework to bring pirates to justice is among the many frustrations for naval forces struggling to curb rising attacks on merchant vessels off Somalia, where pirates launched more than 100 assaults on ships last year and took away millions of dollars in ransom.

Rear Admiral Terence McKnight told the The Associated Press that an accord could be reached within weeks to clear the way for piracy trials and imprisonment in countries "in the region." He declined, however, to name the nations that were possibly willing to hold the trials.

"We're working with a couple of countries that have helped ... out before," McKnight said in an interview from the USS San Antonio.

In November, a Kenyan court gave seven-year prison sentences to each of 10 Somali pirates captured by the US Navy after hijacking an Indian-based merchant ship. Last week, eight suspected pirates detained by a British warship went before a Kenyan court.

India has handed over 11 suspected Somali pirates to Yemen. France and Denmark are among European nations that appear willing to hold their own piracy trials - which are impossible in Somalia. The country has been without a functioning government for nearly two decades.


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