Italian forces board Turkish cargo vessel to "liberate" crew
Italian special forces boarded a Turkish cargo vessel on Friday after the crew detected a group of unidentified people onboard, some of them armed, Rome's defense ministry said on Friday, adding the operation was still under way.
Italian minister Guido Crosetto told an event that there were 15 "illegal migrants" onboard, but did not provide details on how they managed to get there or their country of origin.
"Now all the crew must be liberated and the ship secured," Crosetto said, adding that operations were ongoing.
Crosetto said two or three of them carried weapons.
The crew locked up themselves in the engine room and alerted maritime authorities in Turkey, which in turn contacted Italy and France.
They subsequently set sail towards the southern Italian city of Naples, the statement said.
A Turkish transport ministry statement said the Galata Seaways roll-on-roll-off cargo vessel was sailing from the Turkish port of Yalova to Sete, France.
The crew noticed the presence of other people aboard in the late morning on Friday through security cameras, which showed them wandering around the boat possibly carrying sharp objects, it added.
"Italian security forces intervened in the Galata Seaways ship, which was diverted to Naples to retrieve the fugitives, and the safety of the crew was ensured. While the search activities continue, the operation is being monitored by the Main Search and Rescue Coordination Center under the supervision of our Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu," a statement by the ministry's General Directorate of Maritime Affairs said.