U.S. hands over bodies of 3 Somalian men shot during captain's rescue

American naval forces on Thursday handed Somalian police the bodies of three Somalian men shot during the rescue of an American ship captain earlier this month.

American naval forces on Thursday handed Somalian police the bodies of three Somalian men shot during the rescue of an American ship captain earlier this month.

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 U.S. warship stationed about 6.5 kilometres off the coast.

Mohamed said he did not know if any family members of the men were at the port to collect the bodies.

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

Mohamed said the Americans had been doing DNA tests on the bodies.

Lt. Stephanie Murdock, 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.

U.S. Navy SEALS shot and killed the three men on April 12 as they held Capt. Richard Phillips in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean.

A fourth man, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, was captured and taken to the United States, where he is to stand trial on charges of piracy.

The four Somalian men were part of a group who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. The crew prevented the ship from being hijacked, but four of the pirates left with Phillips and held him in a lifeboat for several days.

With files from The Associated Press