Maltese Soldiers Recapture Tanker from Migrants
A small tanker that was hijacked by migrants off Libya docked in Malta's port of Valletta on Thursday after Maltese special forces took control of the vessel, a Reuters witness said.
Cargo ship Elhiblu 1 had picked up 108 migrants stranded at sea, some of whom then hijacked the vessel when it became clear that it planned to take them back to Libya.
Maltese police arrested four men and the remainder of the migrants were disembarked and boarded onto buses, the witness said.
A Maltese military patrol boat stopped the ship from entering Maltese waters and a special operations team was then dispatched to board and secure the vessel, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) said in a statement on Thursday.
The team was backed by two fast interceptor craft, another patrol boat and a helicopter, the AFM said.
"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," it said in the statement.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday that Italy would not have opened its ports to "criminals" who had committed an act of piracy.
Reporting by Chris Scicluna