UPDATE 1-Somali pirate handed 33-year sentence by US court

Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:23pm GMT

* Muse pleaded guilty to attacks in May

* Judge finds him leader of pirates, cries over victims (Adds quotes from court, background)

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK, Feb 16 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge sentenced a Somali pirate to 33 years and nine months in prison on Wednesday for his role in the 2009 seizure of the Maersk Alabama container ship in the Indian Ocean.

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse -- the sole surviving pirate after others were killed by U.S. Navy marksmen in a high-seas rescue -- was charged with kidnapping, hijacking and hostage-taking.

In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty in May.

Muse was extradited to the United States following the April 2009 attack on the Maersk Alabama, in which kidnapped Captain Richard Phillips was rescued while three captors around him were shot dead by sailors on another vessel.

"I ask for forgiveness to all the people that I harmed, and also the U.S. government," Muse told the court through a Somali interpreter. "I got my hands into something that was more powerful than me."

Muse was 16 at the time of the attacks, defense attorney Fiona Doherty said, although his exact age is unknown. Doherty had asked for a 27-year sentence, citing his young age and his growing up in the "failed state" of Somalia.   Continued...

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