Palermo (AsiaNews) - Italian police have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they were reported to have thrown 12 Christian refugees into the high seas. The 15 arrested are accused of multiple homicide, aggravated by "reasons of religious hatred". The police became aware of the incident by interviewing some of the refugees who survived the crossing, who burst into tears as they described the violence.
According to data notified by the police, those arrested are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea; they include a minor. All of them were on a boat carrying 105 migrants, who left the coast of Libya, on April 14, and arrived in Palermo the next day.
Witnesses say that at some point during the crossing, a fight broke out between a group of young Muslims and a group of Christians; the former threatened to kill the Christians and throw them into the sea "because they are Christians." After wounding one of them with a knife, the group of Muslims threw 12 Christians - Nigerian and Ghanaian - into the high seas, where they are believed to have drowned. Another group of Christians - those who later testified - risked the same fate but formed a "human chain" to withstand the onslaught.
Yesterday, the Italian navy rescued four survivors - a Ghanaian, two Nigerians and a man from Niger from the seas: their rubber dingy was carrying 45 people from Libya, but sunk.
In the last few days at least 10 thousand people who tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea fleeing war and misery have been saved. Italy has long called for the help of the European Union to manage the crisis.
So far this year, at least 500 refugees from Africa and the Middle East have died in the crossing to Europe. Earlier in the week it was reported that a boat carrying 400 people had sank.