The hijacked oil tanker El Hiblu 1 arrived around 8.45 am in the port of the Maltese capital La Valetta this morning. Local press reported that several soldiers with weapons and dozens of migrants could be seen aboard the ship,
“The Armed Forces of Malta established communications with the captain of tanker El Hiblu 1 when it was about 30 nautical miles away and still proceeding towards Malta. The captain repeatedly stated that he was not in control of the vessel and that he and his crew were being forced and threatened by a number of migrants to proceed to Malta,” the press release from the Maltese government stated.
According to a spokesman for the Maltese navy, the migrants will be handed over to the police for further investigation. Marines captured the tanker early this morning and handed over control of the El Hiblu 1 to the captain. According to Malta Today news site, the special operation was carried out with a naval helicopter, two fast intervention boats and a patrol ship.
There are 108 refugees aboard the cargo ship, who were picked from the sea by the crew of the ship.
They revolted yesterday when it became clear that they would be returned to Libya and they took charge of the tanker, Italian media reported. The ship sails under the Palauan flag, an island group in Oceania.
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Authorities in Malta and Italy said the migrants had forced the crew to take the Libya-bound vessel on its way north to Europe. The Italian Minister of the Interior Mr Matteo Salvini spoke of “the first piracy on the high seas with migrants.”
Picture credit: Malta Today