Rescued migrants hijack ship, troops retake

VALLETTA: A merchant vessel hijacked by a group of migrants as it was approaching the Libyan coast arrived in Malta on Thursday after Maltese special forces took control of the ship.
Five of the 108 migrants aboard the El Hiblu 1 tanker were arrested after the ship docked near Valletta on suspicion of having led the migrants’ revolt, an official said.
The arrested were escorted off the ship in handcuffs. They “offered minor resistance when the Armed Forces of Malta boarded the ship,” the source said on condition of anonymity.  Some of the other migrants were seen kissing the ground upon disembarking the ship. There were 12 children, 19 women and 77 men on board, a government spokesperson said.
El Hiblu 1 was taken over by migrants when it was six miles off the Libyan coast, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) said in a statement.
Early on Thursday, the Armed Forces of Malta said a special operation unit “was dispatched to board and secure the vessel in order to handover control of the ship [back] to the captain.” This was after radio contact with the captain was established and he “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 tanker, her crew and all migrants [were] being escorted by the AFM to Boiler Wharf to be handed over to the Police for further investigations,” the AFM statement added.
The vessel arrived in Malta at around 8.30 am (0730 GMT).
“Congratulations to the Armed Forces of Malta for the successful assault on the highjacked #ship in the central #Mediterranean #Sea,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted. — dpa