Malta retakes tanker seized by migrants

A merchant ship overpowered by the boat migrants it had rescued in Libyan waters has docked at Boiler Wharf in Malta on Thursday morning.

108 people were boarded off the tanker, of whom 19 are women and 12 are children. Four men, believed to have been behind the ship’s takeover, have been arrested. They were seen handcuffed and escorted away in a police van.

The tanker had earlier been boarded by the Armed Forces of Malta to wrest back control of the ship when it was overpowered in Libyan territorial waters after attempting to turn the rescued migrants back to Libya.

“The Armed Forces of Malta established communications with the captain of tanker El Hibru 1 when it was about 30NM away and still proceeding towards Malta. 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.

AFM Patrol Vessel P21 stopped the tanker from entering Maltese territorial waters. A Special Operations Unit team boarded the vessel, backed up by AFM Patrol Vessel P51, two Fast Interceptor Craft, and one the AFM’s AW 139 helicopters. P21 kept on escorting and monitoring the tanker throughout the operation.