The Armed Forces of Malta have taken control of a merchant cargo ship that was yesterday hijacked by migrants, reportedly in an attempt to avoid returning to Libya.
The AFM said that its patrol vessel P21 stopped the El Hiblu 1 in its tracks when it was around 30 nautical miles off the Maltese coast and heading into Maltese territorial waters. After returning control of the ship to its captain, the AFM are now escorting the ship to Boiler Wharf and is expected to dock imminently.
The 108 migrants on board, which include 31 women and children, as well as the crew will be immediately detained by police, while the ship will be impounded, pending investigations.
The El Hiblu 1 reportedly picked up the migrants some six miles off the Libyan coast, but the migrants hijacked the ship and turned it northwards towards Malta and Lampedusa as soon as they realised that it was taking them back to Libya. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini decried the hijack as an “act of piracy” and pledged that the ship would not be allowed to enter Italy.
Cover photo: Stock photo