Tanker Captain Feared Death in Migrant Hijacking

Armed forces stand on board the Turkish oil tanker El Hiblu 1, which was hijacked by migrants, in Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2019. A Maltese special operations team boarded the tanker Thursday and took control of it before escorting it to a Maltese port. (Photo: AP)

VALLETTA, MALTA — African migrants who hijacked an oil tanker after it rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea seized metal objects and began smashing the ship and threatening crew members after they realized they were being returned to Libya, the ship’s captain said Friday.

Nader el-Hiblu, the 42-year-old Libyan captain of the El Hiblu 1 ship, said he and five other crew members feared they could be killed during the “horror” that played out at sea this week. He said the threats by rioting migrants forced him to agree to their demand that he take them to Europe, not back to Libya.

“They attacked the cockpit, heavily beating on the doors and the windows and they threatened to smash the boat,” el-Hiblu said in an exclusive account given Friday to The Associated Press. He spoke by phone from the ship, which is now docked in Valletta, the capital of Malta.

“They went nuts and they were screaming and shouting ‘Go back! Go back! Go back!’” he said.

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