Italian police say that Muslim migrants from Libya threw 12 Christians overboard after they refused to pray to Allah as the group’s dinghy began to sink. In total, 15 African Muslims were detained on charges of suspected assault and homicide.
ABC News reports that violence broke out on a rubber dinghy carrying 105 African immigrants across the Mediterranean sea to Italy as it began to sink at sea. As the boat began to sink, several Christians aboard the boat began to pray. African Muslims demanded that they stop praying and when the Christians refused, they threw them overboard. The remaining Christians on the boat say that they were able to form a “human chain” to stop further deaths, but that 12 people perished at sea as the Muslims threw them overboard.
According to the report, migrants from Nigeria and Ghana, who were Christians, were threatened by approximately 15 Muslim passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau when they began to pray. Witnesses say that when the Christians refused to stop praying, the Muslims began throwing them overboard until the Christians were able to form a human chain to stop the attack. The motive of the murderous attack was determined by Italian police as faith-based.
“[The deceased] professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim.”
USA Today notes that the religious assault at sea is just a part of the problem as migrants attempt to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. The International Organization of Migration notes that recent figures show that “nearly 10,000 migrants — mostly from North African nations — have been rescued since last Friday” as the warmer weather and calmer seas draw migrants to attempt the risky migration.
The organization fears that the death toll will reach 900 as many more make the trek across the sea. Just this week, approximately 450 people have died making the crossing as a boat carrying 450 people capsized near the Ivory Coast. Nearly 400 people are feared dead in that single accident.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes that Italy and Greece are the two largest countries receiving refugees and the two combined have already accepted or rescued 31,500 people this year alone. However, those numbers will likely continue to rise, with 219,000 making the journey in 2014. Though the numbers are high, the UNHCR notes that the exact number of refugees making the passage are unknown as many perish at sea without being documented.
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Sergio Camacho]