People traffickers 'flung 12 human sacrifices from Italy-bound boat in voodoo ritual to calm stormy seas'
Five people have been arrested on suspicion of murder after more than a dozen illegal immigrants were thrown from a boat in a 'voodoo ritual to calm stormy seas,' an Italian prosecutor revealed today.
Survivors gave police an horrific account of how human 'sacrifices' were picked from a ship crammed with 400 people after the engine failed.
The captain, a Nigerian, allegedly picked the victims on ethnic origin or nationality.
Witnesses described a number of women performing a macabre 'magic dance' before the victims were flung overboard to 'calm the seas and placate the devil'.
|A group of refugees from Libya sails into Lampedusa: Survivors on one boat claimed the crew threw human sacrifices overboard (file picture)|
The ship was sailing from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, which has been inundated with refugees fleeing the troubles in the Middle East
It was eventually escorted into harbour by coastguards after sending a mayday signal.
When the boat reached Lampedusa, 25 illegal immigrants were found dead in the hold.
They had suffocated due to the poisionous fumes from the engine and the cramped squalid conditions on board.Dozens of others were rushed to hospital suffering from dehydration and exhaustion.
Police on the island carried out a three month investigation and have now held five West African men, aged between 28 and 44.
Prosecutor Ignazio Fonzo led the investigation and the suspects - who were granted leave to stay on humanitarian grounds - were held after a series of raids across southern Italy.
Mr Fonzo said: 'Survivors told us that the captain of the boat, a Nigerian, was the leader of the rituals that began after the engine on the boat failed and they were left stranded in stormy seas.
|Inundated: Policemen stand guard as migrants wait to be shipped from Lampedusa to places across southern Italy|