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10 Jun, 2023 02:17

Migrants hijack Turkish cargo ship (VIDEO)

Helicopters and attack boats were sent to take on “pirates” who tried to commandeer a vessel sailing near the Italian coast
Migrants hijack Turkish cargo ship (VIDEO)

Italy’s special forces were deployed to storm a private ship hijacked by more than a dozen migrants, the Italian Defense Ministry said, claiming the stowaways had armed themselves with “daggers.”

A Turkish cargo vessel en route to France, the Galata Seaways, was taken over by 15 “illegal migrants” on Friday, Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told reporters, also describing them as “pirates.” He said marines with Italy’s San Marco battalion were sent to intervene.

The hijackers “were using what seem to be weapons like daggers” to threaten the ship’s crew, the official added, while local media reports said some on board were taken hostage after the migrants were discovered hiding on the ship.

“Four or five migrants with knives had attempted to take possession of the command bridge, barricading themselves inside and also attempting to kidnap the Turkish sailors,” ANSA News reported.

The Turkish transportation ministry said the crew of the Galata Seaways had detected the presence of unauthorized passengers early on Friday morning. 

The captain of the vessel was able to radio an urgent request to help to Ankara before the takeover, which was then relayed to Italy by Turkish authorities.

Following a seven-hour operation joined by two navy helicopters in addition to coast guard and police vessels, the Italian military said the Turkish ship was recaptured and that its 22 crewmembers were safe. The craft and its cargo are now docked near the coast of Naples.

“Italian security forces intervened in the Galata Seaways, which was diverted to Naples to retrieve the fugitives, and the safety of the crew was ensured,” the Turkish ministry added.

Footage purporting to show the mission in progress has circulated online, with several smaller ships seen surrounding the cargo vessel stopped near the Italian coast.

According to ANSA, investigators found multiple knives and a box-cutter on board, believed to be weapons used by the attackers, who had barricaded themselves in the ship’s hold and were ultimately found with the aid of the ship’s surveillance system.

Italian authorities said they would continue to search the ship for additional stowaways and attempt to identify the 15 migrants arrested following Friday’s standoff. They reportedly included 13 men and 2 women. 

The number of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean has soared to record highs in recent months, with the EU’s border agency reporting a nearly 300% increase in the first four months of 2023. Officials in Rome declared a six-month state of emergency over the flow of migration in April, announcing plans to construct new holding facilities to address the recent surge.

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