A group of Muslim migrants have been arrested for 'aggravated murder' after allegedly throwing 12 Christians into the Mediterranean sea during a recent crossing from Libya, Italian police reports.
Witnesses say a fight broke out on a rubber dinghy carrying more than 100 African migrants from Libya to Sicily, after which the men were thrown to their deaths.
A group of 15 men have now been arrested on suspicion of 'multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate,' Palermo police said in a statement.
Italian police say they were informed of the alleged attacks by a group of Nigerian and Ghanaian survivors upon their arrival in Palermo, Sicily yesterday.
The survivors said they had boarded a rubber boat on the Libyan coast on April 14, which had 105 passengers aboard.
During the crossing, a fight broke out over religion, with the group of Muslim passengers threatening the Nigerians and Ghanaians after the latter declared themselves to be Christians.
'The threats then materialised and 12 people, all Nigerian and Ghanaian, are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean,' the police statement added. The 15 migrants arrested over the attack on their arrival in Palermo are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
The police statement said their motive for the attack was that the victims 'professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim.'
This followed reports earlier today of a shipwreck feared to have cost 41 lives off the Italian coast.
Four men, two Nigerians, a Ghanaian and one from Niger, who had been rescued while floating in the Mediterranean by an Italian Navy helicopter reported the shipwreck once they arrived in the Italian port of Trapani today.
They said had left Tripoli in Libya on Saturday and stayed adrift for four days.
The new tragedies come just days after aid agencies reported 400 presumed dead in the sinking of another ship near the Libyan coast.
The deaths have raised calls for a more robust search and rescue of the seas between Libya and Europe amid a surge in migration between the Middle East and Africa toward Italy.
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