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Malta's armed forces seize merchant ship hijacked by rescued

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VALLETTA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) stormed a merchant vessel taken over by rescued migrants off Libya's coast on Thursday.

The vessel, El Hiblu 1, en route from Turkey to Libya was required to rescue 108 stranded migrants that were allegedly transported to Europe. However, the rescued migrants overpowered the ship crew some six miles off the Libyan coast and demanded that the captain change course for Malta.

"The Armed Forces of Malta established communications with the captain of tanker El Hibru 1 when it was about 30NM away and still proceeding towards Malta. The captain repeatedly stated that he was not in control of the vessel and that he and his crew were being forced and threatened by a number of migrants to proceed to Malta," the AFM said.

The vessel, with the migrants on board including 12 children and 19 women, approached Maltese territorial waters in the early hours of Thursday morning. It was stopped from entering the territorial waters before being stormed by a special operation of the AFM.

A number of patrol boats and a helicopter were dispatched to support the operation.

The tanker, its crew and the migrants have been handed over to local police for further investigation.

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