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LIBYA

Italian fishing boat seized off Libya’s coast

An Italian fishing boat was seized off Libya's coast in what is believed to have been an act of piracy, according to news reports.

Italian fishing boat seized off Libya’s coast
The fishing boat was taken to Libya's Misrata port. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Initial reports said "several Libyan soldiers" boarded the vessel, located about 30 miles off the Libyan coast, in the early hours of Friday morning, although a spokesman for the Sicilian fishing association said it was "probably an act of piracy".

The vessel, which had seven fishermen on board, was reportedly then followed by a tugboat and taken to the Libyan port of Misrata.

"The state of alarm has been at the maximum level since the Italian embassy (in Libya) was closed," Giovanni Tumbiolo, the president of the Sicilian unit of Cosvap, the fishing association, was earlier quoted by Ansa as saying, adding that he had contacted the Libyan agriculture and fisheries minister.

"We are worried but at the same time hopeful, because the Libyan people have always been close to the Sicilians."

Three of the fishermen on board were from Sicily and four were Tunisian.

Francesco Mezzapelle, a spokesman for the association, told Reuters that the seizure was “probably an act of piracy”, adding that Italy’s authorities were alerted by another Italian fishing boat.

The Italian foreign ministry is investigating the matter. 

The chaos in Libya has seen thousands of migrants flee to Italy and also sparked fears of a new stronghold for jihadists to launch attacks on Europe.

Up to 400 people died trying to make the crossing on Sunday after their boat capsized off Libya’s coast.
 

IMMIGRATION

Spanish naval ship arrives in Italy to take in 15 rescued migrants

A Spanish navy patrol boat sent to Lampedusa to pick up 15 migrants from the charity rescue ship Open Arms arrived Friday off the southern Italian island, the Spanish government said.

Spanish naval ship arrives in Italy to take in 15 rescued migrants
Spanish naval ship, Audaz, will set sail for Lampedusa. Photo: Spanish Navy / Ministerio Defensa

The Audaz will pick up 15 migrants who arrived in Lampedusa on the Open Arms, Spain's quota of migrants agreed with France, Germany, Portugal and Luxembourg.

“The navy ship Audaz has arrived in Lampedusa,” government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told a news conference.

Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty andconflict.    

It was not yet clear when the ship will begin its return trip as the 15 migrants still need to go through administrativeprocedures in Italy, Celaa added.

Madrid on Tuesday dispatched the Audaz to take all of the migrants who were aboard the Spanish vessel, stranded off Lampedusa for days because Rome refused to let them set foot on Italian soil.

But just a couple of hours later an Italian prosecutor ordered that the roughly 80 migrants still aboard the Open Arms be allowed to disembark, raising doubts over the mission of the Spanish navy boat.

The Spanish government then decided that the Audaz would continue its trip to Lampedusa to pick up the 15 migrants Madrid had agreed to take in.   

Initially the Open Arms carried 147 mainly African migrants, but all the minors and some suffering health problems disembarked before the ship was finally allowed to dock.

Many of the migrants had spent 19 days aboard the ship after being picked up while trying to make the perilous voyage from Libya to Europe in small boats.

READ ALSO: Spanish armada sets sail to save migrants stuck off Italy

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