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U.S. hands pirates’ bodies over to Somali officials

By Mohamed Olad Hassan Associated Press — MOGADISHU, Somalia — American naval forces today handed over to Somali authorities the bodies of three suspected pirates, officials said, after U.S. snipers shot the trio earlier this month during a standoff over an American hostage.

The sole surviving pirate suspect from the April 8 attack on the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama is in custody in the U.S. facing piracy charges.

Lt. Col. Mohamed Abdulle Mohamed, the chief of security in the country’s northern Bossaso port, said regional authorities sent a small boat to collect the wooden coffins containing the bodies from a warship stationed around 4 miles off the coast.

“I hope they will hand the bodies over to their relatives,” Mohamed said, but noted that none of the people at the port today when the bodies arrived back in Somalia had identified themselves as family members of the dead men.

Mohamed said the Americans said they had been doing DNA tests on the bodies during the past few days.

A spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet declined to comment on possible DNA testing, but confirmed the bodies were transferred to Somali police.

“Their remains were initially transferred to the USS Boxer and have remained in U.S. Navy custody until a transfer to local Somali authorities could be arranged,” said Lt. Stephanie Murdock.

The three men, along with the fourth suspect Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, dominated the world’s television screens for days following their attack on the Maersk Alabama and the standoff over the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage.

Muse eventually surrendered to a nearby warship to seek treatment for a wound sustained during the attack, and now faces trial in New York. Navy SEAL sharpshooters killed his three companions after they pointed their guns at Phillips.



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