Italy navy defends firing on smuggler ship

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Associated Press

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 9:33 AM

ROME (AP) — Italy's navy is defending its decision to fire on a smuggling boat that eventually sank after video of the operation went public.

Rear Adm. Pietro Covino says no migrants were on board the ship and that warning shots were fired at the stern and bow during a three-hour chase to detain the smugglers.

He said the ship had been accompanying a smaller ship packed with migrants in November. When the Italian navy came upon both, officials launched a humanitarian operation to rescue the migrants and a police operation to detain the smugglers.

He said international law allows commanders the right of inspection and in extreme cases the use of force while always keeping in mind the safety of human lives.

An investigation is underway into who leaked the video.

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