ASSIST News Service www.assistnews.net
PALERMO, SICILY, ITALY
Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christian fellow passengers overboard.
The Christian migrants, said to be from Ghana and Nigeria, were travelling in an inflatableboat from Libya to Italy, when the incident took place.
The Daily Mail is reporting it occurred when a Christian began to pray to God for help when the dinghy received a puncture and one of the Muslims on board the rickety craft ordered him to stop, saying: ‘Here, we only pray to Allah.’
The boat wasintercepted by an Italian navy vessel, which transferred the passengers to a Panamanian-flagged ship. That ship docked in Palermo on Wednesday, after which the arrests were made, police said.
The police revealed that they learned of the mass killing when they began interviewing tearful survivors from Nigeria and Ghana who had arrived in Palermo Wednesday morning after being rescued at sea by the ship Ellensborg.
Other people on the voyage told police that they themselves were spared “because they strongly opposed the drowning attempt and formed a human chain,” Palermo police said.
According to CNN, the original group of 105 people left Libya on Tuesday in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants — Muslims from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea, threw the 12 overboard, police said.
The 15 Muslim migrants involved in the row with Christians were arrested in the Sicilian cityof Palermo and charged with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate.”
The suspects were among 105 migrants travelling in an inflatable boat that left Libya on Tuesday.
“Eyewitnesses told police how the altercation resulted in Christians being thrown overboard, and that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate,” said CNN.
Also on Thursday, the Italian navy plucked four survivors – a Ghanaian, two Nigerians, and a man from Niger – from the sea. They said their inflatable boat had sunk after leaving Libya with 45 people on board.”
The International Organization for Migrants (IOM) says the missing 41 people have drowned.
“The four survivors were taken to Sicily along with 600 other migrants trying to make the crossing in various vessels,” added CNN.
Earlier on Thursday Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Italy had “not had an adequate response from the EU” about the migrant crisis.
But European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the organization had no “silver bullet” for the problem.
Last year a record 170,000 people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East made the perilous crossing to Italy.
Media reports say that with improving weather conditions, the number of people making the crossing of at least 300 miles has surged. But vessels provided by people smugglers are often underpowered and overcrowded.
Almost 10,000 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean have been rescued in recent days. Italy has called for more help from the EU to handle the crisis.
More than 500 people from Africa and the Middle East have died making the perilous crossing since the start of the year. Earlier this week, 400 people were believed to have drowned when their boat capsized.