Italy seizes 'mother ship' smuggling Syrian refugees

September 12, 2013 14:54

ROME - Italian authorities have seized a "mother ship" used to traffic illegal migrants across the Mediterranean and picked up about 200 Syrians fleeing the civil war in their homeland, officials said on Thursday.

European Union and Italian patrol boats chased down the fishing boat with a crew of 15 that had been used to ferry the immigrants into international waters near the Sicilian coast, prosecutors and police said on Thursday.

The vessel's crew had already transferred the refugees into a smaller boat for the final leg of their voyage. Italian police boats collected 199 migrants, including 64 children, all of whom were Syrian.

The fishing boat was towed back to the port of Catania in Sicily. The seizure of the mother ship was a result of an investigation into the drowning of six migrants off Sicily in August, prosecutors said in a statement.

The smugglers are part of an Egyptian crime group, they said. The exact departure point of the fishing boat was still unknown.

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