Italian special forces detain 15 migrants after they hijacked ship

Italian special forces detain 15 migrants after they hijacked ship

15 migrants have been detained by Italian authorities after they hijacked a cargo ship in the Mediterranean.

The crew of the Turkish-owned vehicle transporter were freed after Italian special forces mounted a dramatic operation to board the vessel off the coast of Italy.

The asylum seekers, from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq had sneaked undetected onto the Galatea Seaways vessel before it left Turkey earlier this week.

The crew discovered some of the stowaways hiding between vehicles inside the vessel and were threatened with knives by the men, who attempted to take over the ship.

The roll-on, roll-off cargo vessel had left the Turkish port of Topcular on Wednesday and was bound for southern France.

Although the migrants tried to take some of the crew hostage, the ship’s captain managed to send a mayday message to authorities in Ankara, who alerted the Italian military.

Italy’s Defence Minister Guido Marco told reporters “The stowaways were using what seem to be weapons like daggers to threaten the crew.”

The Galatea Seaways was about 90 miles off the Italian coast at the time of the hijack.

Italy dispatched highly trained special forces in two helicopters, and several support vessels, to retake the ship.

In the dramatic video filmed from one of the helicopters, some of the troops could be seen abseiling down ropes onto the deck of the cargo vessel.

After a nearly seven-hour operation, the special forces regained control of the ship and detained all of the hijackers.

Authorities said some had barricaded themselves deep in the depths of the hold.

Officials said all 22 members of the crew had been safely released and “none were seriously injured” although they were “understandably traumatised by their ordeal.”

The latest hijacking in the Mediterranean is just one of an increasing number of attempts by migrants to stowaway onboard merchant vessels heading to Europe.

Most incidents do not end in hostage dramas.

In October 2020 seven stowaways were detained by UK special forces who stormed an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight.

It followed a 10-hour stand-off, with the crew of the Nave Andromeda reporting the group had tried to seize control of the vessel.