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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - A Kenyan court sentenced nine Somali citizens each to five years in prison on Monday after finding them guilty of violently hijacking a vessel, MV Magellan Star, in the Gulf of Aden in September 2010.
The nine were captured by international anti-piracy forces before being handed over to Kenya to be prosecuted, because Somalia was not considered able to try them properly.
Although the number of attacks has fallen markedly since 2011 thanks to tougher security aboard ships and increased Western naval patrols, piracy emanating from the Horn of Africa nation may still cost the world economy about $18 billion a year, the World Bank said in April.
Prosecutors told the court the men attacked the ship armed with three AK-47 rifles, a G3 rifle, one SAR rifle and other crude weapons.
"They hijacked the vessel, using violence against its crew by firing at them, and took control of the ... vessel, thus endangering the lives of the crew," they said in the charge sheet.
All nine had denied the accusations, and were held in custody at one of Kenya's maximum security prisons during the trial.
While handing out the sentence, the court noted that the accused had already served a long term in jail while the trial was in progress, and therefore were given shorter prison terms.
"Such charges would ordinarily attract a jail term of up to 20 years," magistrate Richard Odenyo said in his ruling, which was translated for the suspects who did not understand English.
A lawyer representing the accused termed the ruling "fairly reasonable", saying his clients had not yet decided whether to lodge an appeal.
(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Mike Collett-White)