Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christians overboard following a row on a boat heading to Italy.
The Christian migrants, said to be from Ghana and Nigeria, are all feared dead.
According to a group of Nigerian and Ghanaian survivors, a fight broke out over religion, with a group of Muslim passengers threatening the Nigerians and Ghanaians after they declared themselves to be Christians.
“The threats then materialised and 12 people, all Nigerian and Ghanaian, are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean,” the police statement added.
The 15 Muslim migrants involved in the row with Christians were arrested in the Sicilian city of Palermo and charged with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate”.
The suspects, who are from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea, were among 105 migrants travelling in an inflatable boat that left Libya on Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses told police how the altercation resulted in Christians being thrown overboard, and that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate.