Five of the 108 Libyan migrants who hijacked a merchant ship that rescued them from the Mediterranean Sea were arrested on Thursday when they tried to enter Maltese territorial waters, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) said.
AFM seized the ship El Hiblu 1 and took it to Boiler Wharf, Senglea, above, where the migrants disembarked around 8.30am.
The five suspected hijackers were arrested by the police and taken to their headquarters for questioning.
The rest of the migrants — 72 men, 19 women and 12 minors — were taken to the initial reception centre.
The ship carrying the rescued migrants was nearing Libya on Wednesday when migrants took control of the vessel and changed its course towards Malta.
When the ship was nearing the shores of Malta, AFM contacted the captain of the ship who said he and his crew were being forced by migrants to proceed to Malta.
AFM did not meet any resistance from the unarmed migrants when they seized the ship.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hailed AFM for successfully completing a sensitive operation on high seas.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini described the migrants as pirates but aid agencies blamed the EU’s policy of sending migrants back to Libya for the incident.
This week, the EU slowed its efforts to save migrants at sea after Italy refused to take all rescued migrants.
The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner criticised this move since it will lead to more deaths of migrants at sea. Migrants intercepted at sea and returned to Libya face torture, rape and slave labour