Christian refugees fleeing war and poverty in Africa to seek a better life in Europe recounted how they formed a human chain last Thursday to avoid being thrown to their deaths in the Mediterranean along with 12 of their brothers during a clash over their faith with Muslims on a migrant boat near southern Italy.
"The motive for the resentment was traced to their faiths," police in the Sicilian capital Palermo noted in a Newsweek report of the drowned Christians. "Twelve people are said to have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean, all of them Nigerian and Ghanaian."
Italian police arrested 15 African men from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal alleged to have thrown the Christians to their deaths based on survivor accounts.
Surviving Christians who were on the boat carrying 105 migrants revealed in a Daily Mail report that they would have suffered the same fate if they had not formed a "human chain."
Christian refugees have revealed how they linked arms to form a human chain in a desperate bid to stop Muslim migrants from throwing them into the sea after an argument about religion.
A group of 15 men were arrested on suspicion of "multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate" last week after 12 Christians from Ghana and Nigeria were allegedly thrown off a rubber dinghy into the Mediterranean Sea.
Survivors from the boat, made up of 105 migrants from diverse religions and ethnicities, have now claimed the men tried to throw other Christians off the side of the vessel after an argument about religion, but were prevented because they huddled together to create a human chain.
"About a day and a half into the crossing, at a certain point some Muslims started to rail against us Christians just because we practiced a different religion," Yeboah, from Ghana, told police in Palmero.
He said the Muslims threw three of his friends and six others into the water while he was on a dinghy heading to Sicily from Libya.
"Many said that they should throw us into the sea. After the threats we found ourselves in open sea and not long after they started to throw some Christians in the sea," he said.
"They tried to throw me and the other Christians still on board as well but they didn't manage to because we held onto the boat and clung onto each other," he added. "We resisted for an hour and only stopped when the rescue boat arrived."
Another survivor, Augustin, said police were able to identify one of the suspected killers through a bite left on his foot by one of the people he threw from the dinghy.
"On Sunday evening, spontaneously, the people that spoke French began to rage against the Ghanaians and the Nigerians," said Augustin.
"I don't know why, maybe because there were too many of us on board. One of us understood what they were saying that they wanted to throw us into the sea.
"Soon afterwards they threw three Nigerians and six Ghanaians into the sea, after desperate attempts by each one not to be thrown overboard."