Updated | Merchant ship hijacked by migrants heading towards Malta

The Armed Forces of Malta have confirmed that reports of a pirated ship have been received and that the vessel is being monitored

The El Hiblu 1 (Photo: Marine Traffic)
The El Hiblu 1 (Photo: Marine Traffic)

Updated at 7:45pm

A merchant ship has been hijacked by a group of migrants it had rescued and is now travelling towards Malta, the Armed Forces have confirmed.

An AFM spokesperson told MaltaToday that the attempts to contact the ship’s captain have so far proved futile. The spokesperson said the vessel was still in Libyan territorial waters and was being tracked by the Libyan coast guard.

At 7pm, the spokesperson confirmed that the vessel was still heading towards Malta.

Local authorities are also monitoring the situation and were prepared for any eventuality, the spokesperson said, adding that the vessel would not be allowed to enter Maltese territorial waters.

It is understood that the ship, the El Hiblu 1, is carrying over 100 rescued migrants and is fast approaching the Maltese coast. Vessel tracking website Marine Traffic last received a position for the vessel over 13 hours ago.

According to the vessel tracking website Marine Traffic, the ship's last position was received early on Wednesday morning
According to the vessel tracking website Marine Traffic, the ship's last position was received early on Wednesday morning

La Repubblica reported that the ship was hijacked by the migrants upon learning that they were being taken back to Libya. The hijacking reportedly took place when the vessel was just six miles from the Libyan coast.

“They will certainly not enter Italy,” Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini was reported saying. “This is no longer a rescue but will be the first act of piracy on the high seas.”

MaltaToday has reached out to the Maltese government for comment.

It won't be allowed to enter

Though it's heading towards Malta, Malta's Armed Forces will refuse to allow the pirated vessel to enter local waters, a spokesperson told MaltaToday.

There are multiple units on standby waiting for any developments.

AFM also confirmed that the ship had set sail from Turkey and carries a majority of Turkish nationals amongst its crew. Their condition is as yet unknown.

At current speed, the ship is expected to reach Malta early on Thursday.   

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