Masked gunmen assaulted migrants at sea: HRW

ATHENS: Unidentified gunmen have staged a series of sabotage attacks on boats carrying migrants across the Aegean Sea, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.


Quoting witnesses, the New York-based rights group said there had been eight incidents in which gunmen “intercepted and disabled the boats carrying asylum seekers and migrants from Turkey towards the Greek islands”.

The most recent incidents took place on October 7 and 9.

According to a 17-year-old Afghan called Ali, a speedboat with five men armed with handguns had rammed their rubber dinghy on October 9.

“At first when they approached, we thought they had come to help us,” he told HRW.

“But by the way they acted, we realised they hadn’t come to help. They were so aggressive. They didn’t come on board our boat, but they took our boat’s engine and then sped away,” he said.

He said the men attacked three other boats in quick succession before speeding off towards the Greek coast.

“They spoke a language we didn’t know, but it definitely was not Turkish, as we Afghans can understand a bit of Turkish,” he said.

Similar allegations were made by both migrants and rights groups during the summer.

The latest attacks took place near the island of Lesbos, HRW said.

A Greek coastguard source said the claims were under investigation but despite searches, they had not been able to locate the alleged perpetrators.