The Bodies Of 26 African Girls Retrieved From The Mediterranean Sea; Italian Authorities Investigate

By New York Post

Italian authorities are probing the deaths of 26 teenage African girls whose bodies were recovered in the Mediterranean Sea along the perilous route to Europe from Libya, according to a report.

The girls, ages 14 to 18, are believed to have been migrants from Niger and Nigeria who had embarked on the dangerous voyage over the weekend, according to CNN.

Their bodies were found floating near a partially sunken rubber dinghy, which other girls were clinging to, when rescuers arrived, said Lorena Ciccotti, police chief in the southern Italian port city of Salerno.

Autopsies were expected to be performed Tuesday as authorities seek to determine whether the girls had been tortured or sexually abused.

A top Salerno official, Salvatore Malfi, called the discovery a tragedy and said police will “need to see whether there are suspects to concentrate on or whether the murder inquiry will proceed against persons unknown,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Malfi said investigators would look to see if the women had been assaulted.

“They were on a dinghy that was also carrying men,” he told reporters who asked whether the women were on a sex-trafficking boat.

Four rescue operations were carried out in the Mediterranean over the weekend. In total, 400 people were brought aboard the Spanish ship Cantabria that arrived in Salerno.

Among them were 90 women and 52 minors, including a week-old baby, officials said.

The vessel lowered a “seemingly endless line of black plastic body bags” in Salerno, where they were placed in coffins, AFP reported.

Libya is the biggest jumping-off point for migrants seeking refuge on European shores.

Since the collapse of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime, the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya has skyrocketed.

Sub-Saharan Africans hoping to flee poverty or war have taken advantage of Libya’s power vacuum, which has allowed smugglers to operate mostly without restraint.

On Monday, Italian police arrested two men, an Egyptian and a Libyan, accused of human smuggling. They were not believed to be connected to the boat that was transporting the teenage girls.

Since the start of 2017, 2,839 migrants have died along the central Mediterranean route, according to the International Organization for Migration.

More than 150,000 migrants have reached Europe, of whom around 74 percent are Italian arrivals. Read More

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