Investigators in Italy are looking into the death of 26 teenage girls believed to be from Niger and Nigeria after the bodies of the young migrants were recovered on Sunday.
Twenty-three of the teens were on a rubber dinghy that sank off Libya on Friday, according to a spokesman in Italy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Another 60 people were rescued, but many more may have died at sea, Marco Rotunno said.
The other three teens died in a separate shipwreck. The 26 victims were aged 14 to 18 and all were likely from Niger and Nigeria, according to CNN.
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The bodies were transferred to the Italian mainland aboard a Spanish naval ship carrying another 400 migrants rescued during four operations in the Mediterranean.
Salerno authorities say they will examine whether the teens had been sexually abused or tortured, according to CNN.
Approximately 2,500 migrants were picked up at sea over a five-day period, making it the most intense rescue period in the region since Italy reached a deal with Libya this summer to slow departures of smugglers’ boats carrying migrants. In the same period, 37 bodies have been recovered, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
More than 2,800 migrants have died on the central Mediterranean route this year, according to CNN.
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The number of migrants arriving in Italy this year is 30% lower than last year, according to Interior Ministry figures.
With News Wire Services
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