Seven Somalis, including three boys under 15 years old, could face the death penalty if convicted on charges of firing on Malaysian armed forces while attempting to a hijack a merchant ship.
The seven appeared before a Malaysia magistrate in Kuala Lumpur on Friday to hear the charges against them. They did not enter a plea and were transferred to a prison to await the next court action, set for March 15, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported.
The charges stem from an attack on the container ship Bunga Laurel in the Gulf of Aden on January 20.
Malaysian authorities say the seven suspects fired on Malaysian navy commandos who were trying to rescue the Bunga Laurel from pirates. Three suspects were injured in the gunbattle, and the ship and its crew of 23 were rescued, according a report in The Star.
The Bunga Laurel was registered in Panama, owned by a Japanese company, crewed by Filipinos and chartered by a Malaysian company, according to news reports.
Prosecutors argued Friday that the attempted piracy endangered Malaysia's national security, providing legal authority for the seven to be tried in Malaysia, Bernama reported.