Italian police have arrested a 24-year-old Somali asylum seeker on charges of being one of a gang of jihadist pirates who seized an Italian oil tanker in the Persian Gulf in 2011.
The tanker and its crew were held hostage for 10 months until a reported $11 million ransom was paid.
Mohammed Farah was caught by Carabinieri special force police officers after he applied for asylum as a refugee in the Sicilian town of Caltanissetta, police said.
Officers used fingerprint records to identify him as one of 50 alleged pirates who stormed the Savina Caylyn tanker on February 8, 2011, using rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.
The ransom was reportedly paid to al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist gang, after the crew of five Italians and 17 Indians were tortured and mistreated during their 10-month ordeal.
Police found fingerprints on the tanker after its release and determined they did not belong to any of the crew.
Meanwhile, the Italian government yesterday welcomed Libya’s decision to stop foreign vessels entering a stretch of water off its coast and enforce its own search and rescue zone as a response to the migrant crisis that has engulfed Europe.
The comments from Angelino Alfano, the Italian foreign minister, came as Save the Children and Sea Eye, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), joined Médecins Sans Frontières in suspending operations in the area.
Mr Alfano told La Stampa newspaper that the Libyan government was “ready to put in place a search and rescue zone in its waters, work with Europe and invest in its coastguards.”
But Save the Children said it regretted having to suspend its operations in the Mediterranean, while German aid group Sea Eye said it was with “a heavy heart” that it made its decision after Libya’s “explicit threat against the private NGOs”.