Police in Italy have cracked down on an alleged human trafficking ring. Detectives are questioning 14 North Africans thought to be members of a smuggling network based in Egypt, Libya and the southern Italian region of Calabria. Arrest warrants have been issued for fifteen others. Authorities believe the group ferried thousands of illegal immigrants into Italy last year.
The focus of the investigation is the arrival of at least 25 boats packed with more than 3,000 African migrants who landed on Lampedusa. The southern Italian island is one of the closest points in Europe to Africa and migrants often aim for its rugged shores as a stepping off point to the European Union.
Italian media reported that some of those under investigation in the case had possible links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda militant network, but a police official said there was no evidence to prove this. Earlier this morning ten people were found dead in a boat some 500 kilometres south of the Spanish Canary Island of Gran Canaria.
The floating vessel was discovered by a merchant navy ship this morning. Officials say the nationality of the dead is unclear. Many people seeking illegal entry into Europe often die en route from starvation or their rickety boats fail to survive the journey.