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'Alabama pirates' return to Somalia dead

AMERICAN naval forces handed Somali authorities the bodies of three suspected pirates yesterday, officials said, after United States 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 US-flagged Maersk Alabama is in custody in the US facing piracy charges.

Lieutenant Colonel 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 about 6.5 kilometers off the coast.

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

"Maybe they will join the funeral procession," he said.

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 US 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 US Navy custody until a transfer to local Somali authorities could be arranged," said Lieutenant 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 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 is now to face trial in New York. Navy Seal sharpshooters killed his three companions after they pointed their guns at captain Phillips.


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