07:17 GMT +321 July 2018
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    Migrants rest after they disembarked in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta

    Italian Navy Captures Fishing Boat Seized by Armed Men off Libya

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    The Italian Navy has taken control of a Sicilian fishing boat seized earlier on Friday by armed men in Libyan territorial waters, the Navy said in a written statement.

    Migrants wait to disembark from a ship on February 17, 2015 in the port of Porto Empedocle, south Sicily, following a rescue operation of migrants as part of the International Frontex plan
    © AFP 2018 / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO
    ROME (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, unidentified armed men seized the Italian fishing boat "Airone" about 30 miles off the Libyan coast and allegedly headed the vessel toward the port of Misrata.

    There were seven crew members on board, among them three Italians from Sicily and four Tunisians.

    The Navy's statement did not specify the current condition of the crew members.

    On Thursday, Italy arrested 15 Muslim refugees from Libya for alleged homicide based on religious hatred, after they threw 12 Christian migrants overboard.

    The number of deaths in the Mediterranean has increased rapidly as thousands of refugees have risked the sea journey to Europe to escape ongoing conflicts in Libya and other nations of North Africa and the Middle East.

    On Monday, the Italian coast guard said it rescued about 6,000 migrants over the last weekend.

    According to UNHCR, more than 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2014. During that year at least 3,500 have died in the attempt.

    Related:

    Italian Police Say Muslim Migrants Killed Christians at Sea
    Charity Says 400 Migrants Drowned in Attempt to Get From Libya to Italy
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