Italian prosecutors have commenced investigations into the deaths of 26 Nigerian women whose bodies were recovered at sea, BBC reported on Monday.
The victims, who are mostly teenagers, aged 14-18, are believed to have been sexually abused and murdered as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean.
Following several rescues, their bodies were discovered in a Spanish warship, Cantabria, carrying 375 migrants and the dead women; 23 of whom women had been on a rubber boat with 64 other people.
Italian media reported that the women’s bodies were being kept in a refrigerated section of the warship. Most of the 375 survivors brought to Salerno were sub-Saharan Africans from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia and Sudan.
Among the 375 survivors were 90 women, eight of them pregnant, 52 children and some Libyan men and women on board.
People-smuggling gangs charge each migrant about $6,000 (£4,578) to get to Italy, $4,000 of which is for the trans-Saharan journey to Libya and many migrants have reported violence, including torture and sexual abuse, by the gangs.
Five migrants are being questioned in the southern port of Salerno.
Thousands of Nigerians travel through the desert to Libya from where they try to cross the Mediterranean to Italy seeking better life.
Hundreds of such Nigerians, who could not make the crossing, end up getting trapped in Libya with many of them eventually returning to Nigeria with the help of the International Organisation for Migration.