By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 10 November 2013:
The Italian navy believes that it has caught 16 human traffickers responsible for some of . . .[restrict]the flood of refugees leaving Libya in flimsy boats in the hope of better life in Europe.
Yesterday it announced that a surveillance operation which had involved a submarine and aerial drones had resulted in the detention of what it described as “ a mother ship” from which illegal immigrants were despatched in smaller craft when well out at sea.
The authorities in Rome reported that 16 suspects were detained on board the fishing vessel, which turned out not to be particularly seaworthy itself, as it sank when under tow towards an unspecified Italian port. No nationalities have been given for the people detained.
It is not yet clear where the interception took place. Italian naval sources said the fishing boat was captured 500 kilometres southeast of Sicily, possibly quite close to Libyan waters.
The same day coastguard units halted a boat sent off from the “mother ship” with 176 Syrian refugees on board. The occupants were transferred to a small coastal vessel and taken to Syracuse in Sicily.
It has also emerged that on 25 October, the police on the Italian island of Lampedusa arrested a man, after he had reportedly almost been lynched by other detainees at a camp for illegal immigrants. The attackers of Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin, claimed he was a trafficker, who had raped and tortured them before they embarked on the overcrowded boat that capsized off the island last month killing more than 365 refugees.
Muhidin, who has been described as a Somali national, was a leader of a group of people smugglers who held their human traffic in a compound near Sebha and demanded up to $3,500 to take them on to Europe. Those who could not arrange for the money to be transferred by wire service, were tortured and their womenfolk raped. Muhidin is now being held in Palermo along with Tunisian Khaled Bensalam, who is said to have been captain of the doomed vessel.