Maltese navy takes control of tanker hijacked by migrants: statement

Migrant arrivals from North Africa and the Middle East have been sharply reduced since a 2015 peak when Europe faced its worst migration crisis since World War II. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 March 2019
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Maltese navy takes control of tanker hijacked by migrants: statement

  • Maltese army said a special operations team is escorting the vessel to Malta where it was expected to arrive Thursday morning
  • It will then “be handed over to the police for further investigations”

VALETTA: Malta’s armed forces said Thursday they had taken control of a tanker that was hijacked by migrants it had rescued off Libya.
It said a special operations team is escorting the vessel to Malta where it was expected to arrive Thursday morning, to “be handed over to the police for further investigations.”
The Palau-flagged tanker Elhiblu I picked up the migrants on Tuesday evening in waters where Libyan coast guards are responsible, and then headed back to Tripoli.
But six nautical miles from port the ship suddenly changed course and headed north toward Europe.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday the vessel had been hijacked, and vowed that the migrants would not be allowed to disembark in Italy.
The tanker was about 30 nautical miles from Malta when the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) established communications with the captain.

“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 AFM said in a statement.
“AFM Patrol Vessel P21 stopped the tanker from entering the Maltese territorial waters.
“An AFM Special Operations Unit team was dispatched to board and secure the vessel in order to hand over control of the ship to the captain.”
It said the team was backed up by several naval vessels and a helicopter.
The German charity Sea-Eye, whose ship Alan Kurdi was in the rescue zone off Libya and which overheard radio messages between a European military aircraft and the tanker, said the ship picked up 108 migrants including women and children.
Migrants in chaos-wracked Libya face trafficking, kidnap, torture and rape, according to the United Nations and aid groups.
Following Rome’s increasingly tough anti-migrant stance, boats that pick up migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean increasingly return them to Libya.
Boatloads of rescued migrants have in recent months refused to disembark in Libya, prompting the authorities there to use force.
The European Union announced on Wednesday it will suspend ship patrols that have rescued tens of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean and brought them to Italy, in the face of deep resistance from Rome’s populist government.
Migrant arrivals from North Africa and the Middle East have been sharply reduced since a 2015 peak when Europe faced its worst migration crisis since World War II.


India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

Updated 22 September 2019

India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

  • India’s coast guard seized $42 million worth of ketamine

NEW DELHI: India’s coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized $42 million worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.
The 1,160-kilogram drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the defense ministry said in a statement.
The boat’s crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding “57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance” on Friday.
“Preliminary analysis ... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel,” the ministry added.
The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.
They claimed they left Myanmar on September 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat “operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line” on Saturday, the statement said.
The Nicobar Islands are located near Southeast Asia, off Myanmar’s coast.
Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone, the world’s second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.
Large amounts drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.