Libyan vessel "hijacked" off Malta
Maltese police are investigating a potential case of hijacking at sea involving 16 passengers and three crew members, officials said on Saturday, reported dpa.
The crew of the Libyan freighter Benghazi II had claimed in a radio message on Friday night that the ship was being taken over by 16 passengers on board, according to the Maltese army.
Three patrol boats approached the 20-metre vessel, and after a while the commander of a Maltese boat "successfully negotiated" the disembarkation of the passengers, according to the army.
The rescuers boarded and secured the vessel and released the captain and the two members of his crew from the engine room. One of the crew suffered light injuries.
The ship was escorted to Malta on Saturday and all passengers and crew were handed over to the police for questioning.
No other details have emerged yet, though it is not excluded that the "passengers" were would-be illegal immigrants seeking to reach Europe.
There has been a drastic drop in illegal immigrant crossings in 2009 following a controversial patrol deal signed between Libya and Italy.