Eleven suspected Somali pirates accused of attacking US Navy ships have been charged in the federal court of Virginia in the US.

The men were indicted for attacking two navy ships, USS Nicholas and USS Ashland, off the coast of Africa.

The pirates were charged with offences including piracy, plunder, assault with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy to use firearms during an act of violence.

A charge of piracy carries a mandatory life sentence while the other charges, such as assault with a dangerous weapon in special maritime jurisdiction and conspiracy to use firearms, carry sentences of between ten and 20 years.

The USS Nicholas is an Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate based in Norfolk, Virginia, while the USS Ashland is a Whidbey Island Class dock landing ship based in Little Creek, Virginia.