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Turkish vessel sets sail off Italy after special forces operation


By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – A Turkish cargo vessel that Italian special forces boarded after the crew detected a group of unidentified people aboard has left waters off the southern city of Naples, website MarineTraffic showed, as police continued to investigate the incident.

Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said on Friday that the special forces operation was launched due to the presence of about 15 migrants on board the vessel.

A Turkish transport ministry statement said the Galata Seaways roll-on-roll-off vessel was sailing from the Turkish port of Yalova to Sete in France. The crew realised other people were aboard the ship late on Friday morning, it said.

The crew locked themselves in the engine room and alerted maritime authorities in Turkey, who in turn contacted Italy and France. The captain told Italian police he issued the alarm after he saw two of the people carrying knives, local media reported.

Ansa news agency said the migrants – who were Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians – included a pregnant woman, and three of them were charged over the weapons. It said two women were taken to hospital, while the rest were transferred to a migrant reception centre.

“Everything ended well,” Crosetto wrote on Twitter on Saturday, as he congratulated the special forces and police for the operation.

Crosetto said on Friday that the migrants had tried to take control of the boat, but local media said none of them had so far been charged with that as investigations continue.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, Federica Urso and Yesim Dikmen; Editing by Nick Macfie, Hugh Lawson and Helen Popper)

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