Pirates return to the Mediterranean: Italian navy takes back fishing boat seized near Libya

(Reuters) – Italian navy personnel on Friday boarded a Sicilian fishing boat and took custody of a Libyan soldier on board after the vessel was seized overnight off the coast of the North African state, the defence ministry said.

The Mediterranean has grown increasingly deadly as hundreds of thousands of people put themselves in the hands of migrant traffickers for harrowing journeys on overloaded boats to Europe to escape conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.

A defence ministry statement said a tugboat apparently belonging to Libyan security forces had stopped an Italian trawler early on Friday, around 90 km (55 miles) from the port of Misrata.

Italy’s navy subsequently intercepted and took control of the vessel, encountering no resistance from the sole Libyan soldier on board, who was transferred to an Italian ship.

One fisherman suffered minor injuries, the ministry said.

A spokesman for a Sicilian fishing trade association had said earlier that the incident was likely the work of pirates. No such attacks have been reported before…