Italian minister praises storming of ship

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Italy’s interior minister has praised Maltese armed forces for intercepting a ship that had been hijacked by migrants to avoid being returned to Libya.

Matteo Salvini on Thursday said that “immigration is managed by criminals and should be blocked by any legal means necessary.”

Salvini had called the incident “the first act of piracy on the high seas with migrants,” adding they would not be allowed to land in Italy even as the tanker head north toward Malta and Italy.

Humanitarian groups cautioned against the characterization, saying the migrants were acting in self-defense to avoid being returned to lawless Libya.

Maltese armed forces returned control of the tanker to the captain who then sailed to Malta under military escort. Four migrants were taken off the tanker in handcuffs.