Turkey detains seven over immigrant boat tragedy: Anatolia
ANKARA – Turkish police on Saturday arrested seven suspected human traffickers following the deaths of at least 50 illegal migrants in a boat tragedy in the Aegean Sea, the Anatolia news agency said.
Police in the western city of Izmir, where the suspects were detained, however refused comment.
One of the suspects, identified by his initials M.A., was believed to be the ringleader of the group which organized the ill-fated voyage, Anatolia said.
Turkish officials believe 60 to 85 clandestine migrants were on board the boat, which capsized in bad weather on December 8 after setting off from Seferihisar, a town near Izmir, and apparently headed towards Greece.
Only six people, who have identified themselves as Palestinians, are known to have survived.
The survivors have identified M.A as the man to whom they paid money for the trip, Anatolia said.
Police seized scores of fake passports and residence permits in the suspects' homes and offices, it said.
The seven men were traced through the mobile phone records of one of the victims, a 34-year-old Turkish man with a bulky criminal record whom officials suspected might be one of the traffickers.
Officials say they believe most of the victims are believed to be Palestinians, Somalis and Iraqis, adding that a precise determination of their nationalities was difficult because no ID documents were found on the bodies.
Turkey lies on a major route for people smuggling from Asia into western Europe, and illegal migrants are detained almost daily.
The migrants mostly attempt to sneak to Greece by land or brave clandestine sea journeys, often aboard unseaworthy vessels, to Greece or Italy, both European Union countries.
12/15/2007 14:55 GMT