Turks hold 5 after shipwreck

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish officials said yesterday they had detained five suspected human traffickers after a boat carrying dozens of illegal immigrants to Rhodes sank off Turkey’s southwestern coast at the weekend. [Meanwhile, Greek coastguards yesterday arrested two Ukrainian suspected migrant smugglers found off the island of Evia on a sinking yacht carrying 53 illegal migrants.] Turkish rescuers failed to find bodies after the ship capsized late on Friday, abandoned at sea by its captain, according to the sole survivor – an Iranian who clung to a spar of wood for hours before being picked up by a Turkish ferry on Saturday afternoon. Four people suspected of organizing the trip from Turkey’s southwestern town of Marmaris to Rhodes were detained in Istanbul, and a fifth in Marmaris, local governor Huseyin Aksoy told NTV television. «They are being questioned,» he said. It is unclear how many passengers were on the boat. The Iranian survivor said 70 Afghans, Iranians and Arabs were aboard the ship when it capsized northeast of Rhodes, according to a statement by the Turkish coastguard. Aksoy said authorities estimated there had been 37 people aboard, but stressed that the interrogation of the five suspects would help determine the exact number of passengers. The Iranian, identified in media reports as Hussein Dadkhani Marci, said a Turkish man captained the vessel for a while and then left aboard a speed boat, telling passengers they would soon reach Rhodes. Shortly after he left, the vessel began to take on water. As the passengers panicked, it capsized. An air-and-sea search in Turkish waters failed to find any other survivors. Greek authorities also failed to find any survivors or bodies yesterday after recovering seven bodies on Sunday.