[VIDEO] Manuela Mesco: How Migrants’ Ordeal Turned Into Tragedy at Sea

Migrant Bodies In Mediterranean Tragedy Arrive in Malta

An Italian coast guard ship brought the bodies of 24 victims of what could be the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant tragedy to Malta on Monday, according to the Maltese army. Mark Kelly reports.

Overloaded and listing boat collided with rescue vessel; captain and crewman detained

CATANIA, Italy — Manuela Mesco reports: Last week, people smugglers near Tripoli loaded almost 900 Africans and Middle Easterners onto a rickety, wooden fishing boat, turning away as many as 200 others who had hoped to board and make the passage to Italy. The migrants had endured weeks or months of deprivation, with some detained and beaten for months by the smugglers.

Tunisian skipper Mohammed Ali Malek, left, seen Monday on board an Italian Coast Guard ship at the port of Catania, was detained on suspicion of multiple counts of murder. Photo: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Tunisian skipper Mohammed Ali Malek, left, seen Monday on board an Italian Coast Guard ship at the port of Catania, was detained on suspicion of multiple counts of murder. Photo: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

“We had to literally slalom among the corpses. They were everywhere.”

— Enrico Vitiello, a 22-year-old medical assistant who was aboard one of the rescue vessels

Their ordeal became a tragedy as the ship sank on the weekend, leaving an estimated 850 people dead in what now appears to be the gravest single episode in the mass exodus of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

“Only 28 people—all male—were pulled from the water alive, along with 24 bodies. One young man managed to save himself because he had learned how to swim not long before departing for his journey.”

The 66-foot boat was dangerously overloaded, with many on board—especially women and children—squeezing into the lower decks for the journey. Mohammed Ali Malek, a 27-year-old Tunisian, took the helm and headed for Italy.

The migrant boat’s captain, Mohammed Ali Malek, left, and Mahmud Bikhit, two of the survivors of the boat that overturned off the coast of Libya, are being detained by Italian police. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

The migrant boat’s captain, Mohammed Ali Malek, left, and Mahmud Bikhit, two of the survivors of the boat that overturned off the coast of Libya, are being detained by Italian police. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

On Saturday, about 60 miles from the Libyan coast, the boat issued a distress call—possibly in a true emergency, possibly using a common practice for drawing rescue vessels to take migrants to Italy. Officials at WO-AW189_MIGRAN_16U_20150419181205the Italian Coast Guard command center in Rome, consulting a giant screen that tracks the location of all private and official vessels in the area, immediately ordered the King Jacob, a Portuguese merchant ship, to the scene.

 “We found a man waving and screaming. Then we found another one in the water. We didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When we pulled him onto the boat, he just started to cry.”

— Giuseppe Pomilla, a doctor on the scene

As it approached, according to Coast Guard officials, the migrants rushed to one side of their decrepit boat, making it list dangerously. Around the same time, the two vessels collided and the migrants’ boat quickly tipped over, according to accounts from survivors and Italian prosecutors. It sank so quickly that hundreds of people crammed into the lower decks had no chance to escape.

The Italians quickly dispatched 17 other vessels, including Coast Guard cutters, Maltese Navy ships and fishing boats, to the scene to search for survivors. They found wooden fragments, floating life jackets, an oil slick, and many bodies.

“The deaths, if confirmed, further establish the Mediterranean as the most lethal migrant route in the world. “

“We had to literally slalom among the corpses,” Enrico Vitiello, a 22-year-old medical assistant who was aboard one of the rescue vessels, said on Tuesday. “They were everywhere.”

[read the full text here, at WSJ]

Giuseppe Pomilla, a doctor, reached the scene around 1 a.m. on Sunday to hear “desperate screaming” from people in the water. “We found a man waving and screaming,” he said. “Then we found another one in the water. We didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When we pulled him onto the boat, he just started to cry.” The survivors had spent hours in the water before being rescued, he added.

“An estimated 3,200 died in the crossing last year, and this year’s toll has already reached 1,600.”

Only 28 people—all male—were pulled from the water alive, along with 24 bodies. One young man managed to save himself because he had learned how to swim not long before departing for his journey, according to statements he gave to workers at the International Organization for Migration. Four of the survivors were minors, two from Somalia and two from Bengal, said aid group Save the Children. Italian prosecutors estimate that about 850 others drowned, about half of them Eritreans, the rest Syrians, Somalis and others. Read the rest of this entry »


Kirsten Powers: ‘If a Christian mob on a ship bound for Italy threw 12 Muslims to their death for praying to Allah, does anyone think the president would have been so disinterested?’

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Western leaders — including Obama — will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded

Kirsten Powers writes:

What do you call it when 12 men are drowned at sea for praying to Jesus?

Answer: Religious persecution.

Yet, when a throng of Muslims threw a dozen Christians overboard a migrant ship traveling from Libya to Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi missed the opportunity to label it as such. Standing next to President Obama at their joint news conference Friday, Renzi dismissed it as a one-off event and said,  “The problem is not a problem of (a) clash of religions.”

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“Obama was mute on the killings. He failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith.”

While the prime minister plunged his head into the sand, Italian authorities arrested and charged the Muslim migrants with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate,” according to the BBC.

 “If a Christian mob on a ship bound for Italy threw 12 Muslims to their death for praying to Allah, does anyone think the president would have been so disinterested?”

As Renzi was questioned about the incident, Obama was mute on the killings. He failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith. If a Christian mob on a ship bound for Italy powers-bookthrew 12 Muslims to their death for praying to Allah, does anyone think the president would have been so disinterested?

[Order Kirsten Powers’ upcoming book “The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech” from Amazon.com]

When three North Carolina Muslims were gunned down by a virulent atheist, Obama rightly spoke out against the horrifying killings. But he just can’t seem to find any passion for the mass persecution of Middle Eastern Christians or the eradication of Christianity from its birthplace.

“Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the persecution and begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Western leaders — including Obama — will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded.”

Religious persecution of Christians is rampant worldwide, as Pew has noted, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where followers of Jesus are the targets of religious cleansing.  Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the persecution and begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Where is Putin?’ Rumors and Questions as Russian Leader Drops Off Radar

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Whispers in Moscow about a leader’s health are nothing new

Moscow (AFP) – Where is President Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin was forced Thursday to insist the Russian leader was in good health as rumours swirled online over his week-long absence from the public eye.

“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy.”

— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Putin was last seen in public on March 5 when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, ever since he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan this week, Russians have grown increasingly curious about what their usually omnipresent leader is up to.

The 62-year-old nurtures a fit, tough-guy image and rarely takes time off.

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“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.

“As soon as the sun comes out… and it starts smelling of spring, people start getting delusions.”

— Dmitry Peskov, to Echo of Moscow radio station

Putin also postponed a meeting to sign an alliance agreement with the leader of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, and did not show up at a meeting of the FSB security agency.

Peskov said the agreement with the rebel region may be signed next week and that Putin’s attendance at the FSB meeting was not planned.

He said Putin was busy with Russia’s economic crisis and has “meetings constantly, but not all meetings are public.”

Asked if Putin’s handshake remains firm, Peskov laughed and said: “It breaks your hand.” However he evaded a question on when Putin would next be seen on television. Read the rest of this entry »